By Elpidio R. Estioko
Two weeks ago, US President Donald Trump unveiled the 3-step recovery plan The Opening Up America Again setting up the guidelines in re-opening the economy. Originally, Trump claimed he has a total responsibility to decide when to bring back the economy which has been suffering severely due to the lockdown of businesses establishments caused by the corona virus pandemic COVID-19.
This time, under the 3-step plan, he relinquished his total responsibility and passed it on to the governors. While the decision to open the economy now rests on the hands of the governors, they must follow the guidelines laid down by the president and must have to cope up with the pressures ahead of them.
My journalist-friend Romy Morales from Barrow, Alaska said: “We are actually fighting an ‘invisible’ enemy, not with high-powered guns and cannons but with a firm resolve to mitigate it if not to totally eradicate the pandemic.” Despite all the government moves to contain it and save peoples’ lives however, the virus continue to spread and every day, we have been hearing reports of deaths and more people are being found positive of the viru.s
So, it’s actually a big gamble on the part of the governors because it’s a choice between re-opening the economy with the hope of rekindling the economy as opposed to health issues where Americans are exposed to the virus and eventually succumbing to it. I think it is a gamble because if they will not re-open soon, their local economy remains to be paralyzed and there will be more Americans applying for unemployment benefits (EDD). So far, CNN reported that there are 3.2 million Americans who filed for unemployment lately totaling 33.5 million since mid-March. If they will not, their constituents will just the same criticize them for not acting soon and not taking the risk as local leaders.
The governors are in a dilemma… they need to act and gamble a calculated move they need to call. It’s a choice between re-opening in the hope that the economy will bounce back as against health issues exposing the workers from being found positive and eventually succumbing to the virus. Washington Post reported more than 50,000 already died of corona virus.
So, the race to the top of economic recovery despite the projected 3,000 deaths by June is on! To be able to do that, restrictions were loosened and the requirements laid down by the president under the recovery plan were relaxed or not met at all.
Dr. Fauci, the top government expert on infectious disease Monday over CNN said: If “you jump the gun” on re-opening, “it’s going to backfire”. This is a contradiction of the president’s original plan to re-open the economy soon starting May 1.
CNN reported that deaths and new cases of COVID-19 has risen in new hot spots, including Georgia and Texas. Alaa Elassar reported on CNN on Monday, May 4, 2020, that Gov. Brian Kemp started to ease restrictions on April 24 and re-opened gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, estheticians and massage therapists were able to reopen April 24, with certain rules. Theaters and restaurants were allowed to re-open April 27, also with caveats to maintaining social distancing. Bars, nightclubs and music venues will remain closed, for now.
The governor’s announcement created resistance, according to writer Eric Bradner in his article: “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is running into resistance from mayors and businesses who fear a new wave of corona virus infections as he seeks an early end to his state’s shutdown. It came as a surprise to mayors and some members of Kemp’s own corona virus task force. Mayors are pushing back, some businesses are saying they’ll keep their doors closed and even Trump allies are questioning whether Kemp is moving too quick,” the article mentioned.
Also in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, who had ordered all Texans to stay home through April 30, announced on April 27 the first phase of the state’s plan to safely reopen Texas. “All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums, and libraries were permitted to reopen on Friday, May 1, but must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts,” Abbott said.
The situation is a little bit more calculated in California. Elassar reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom said on May 1 that he is “days, not weeks” away from beginning to lift some restrictions in the state’s stay-at-home order. On Friday, May 8, 2020, partial reopening for retail businesses were ordered by the governor — clothing stores, florists, and bookshops — will be allowed to reopen with curbside pickup and physical distancing. Associated manufacturing and supply chain for those retail businesses will also be able to get back to work.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed personal services businesses and restaurants in most parts of Alaska to reopen April 24, but with restrictions. Hair salons, according to the report, can only admit customers by reservation. Restaurants will have to keep distances between tables and can’t exceed 25% of their normal capacity. The city of Anchorage delayed the new rules until April 27.
Dunleavy said “Alaska is not in a rush to reopen but is responding to a low infection rate in the state and a belief that they can quickly isolate any future outbreaks.”
In Hawaii, the statewide stay-at-home order to expire April 30 has been extended until May 31, Gov. David Ige announced. Ige said he has also extended the order that travelers quarantine for 14 days after their arrival to the state until May 31.
Beaches are now open for exercising such as jogging, running or walking but people cannot loiter on the beach and must maintain social distance, Ige said. Groups of two people or more are now allowed to fish for subsistence or commercial purposes, Ige said. A previous restriction limited such gatherings to two people.
The same report said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a “New York State on PAUSE” executive order which took effect on March 22. Nonessential businesses are ordered to stay closed until May 15.
“Now that we’ve shown we can flatten the curve and our efforts to control the spread of the virus are working, we must focus on a smart, effective plan to un-pause New York,” Cuomo said last week. “We’re going to reopen in phases which will be based on a regional analysis, particularly economic regions. The first phase would include construction and manufacturing activities – and within that “those businesses that have a low risk”. Phase two would utilize more of a business-by-business analysis using a matrix that determines each businesses overall importance and risk in reopening,” he added.
So, the race is on despite the growing numbers… and governors who now have the sole responsibility in re-opening the economy are claiming their victory laps and are in a hurry to reach the homestretch!
ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org).