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Homeland Security

Some US States Begin Warily Reopening

By VOA News April 26, 2020

Some U.S. states are slowly reopening their economies after weeks of lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as confirmed cases and death tolls continue to climb in the United States – by far the hardest hit country by the virus in the world – health experts are warning that drastic changes will be needed to be made before easing social restrictions.

Over the weekend, the nation's top infectious-disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that the U.S. would need to increase its testing for the virus by at least two-fold before it could begin reopening its economy.

"You need enough tests so when you're doing what we're trying to do right now, which is trying to ease our way back, that you can very easily identify, test, contact trace and get those who are infected out of society so they don't infect others," Fauci said in a webcast hosted Satuday by the National Academy of Sciences.

Over 940,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States, resulting in over 54,000 deaths.

Georgia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma are among the states that have already begun a partial reopening.

The Western state of Colorado will replace its stay-at-home order with a softer version which will include the opening of select businesses, most of which will be required to operate with only curbside pickup.

Other states have been more wary of entering the next phase of their orders too early.

"I don't want to second guess my colleagues," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, chair of the National Governors Association, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week Sunday". "I'm going to be very cautious."

New York, the state hardest-hit with the coronavirus, has been under a stay-at-home order since March 22. The executive order is set to expire on May 15, at which time governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will coordinate with neighboring states to slowly reopen their economies.

In a press briefing Sunday, Cuomo said the first phase of reopening will involve "low-risk" construction and manufacturing jobs, mostly in upstate New York.

"Downstate is more complicated," Cuomo said, referring largely to New York City, where roughly one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States have occurred.

"Coordination does not mean total consistency," he said.

But the closing of businesses across the country has had a devastating effect employment.

Over 26.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last five weeks, according to the Department of Labor.

Some companies laid off workers quickly in mid-March as the spread of the coronavirus became apparent. But other companies vowed to keep paying their workers, at least for a while, even as many of them had little work to do as their potential customers stayed home to protect themselves and their families.

Some companies have now laid off these workers as well, as the depth of the country's economic turmoil takes hold.

"We're going to be looking at an unemployment rate that approaches rates that I think we saw during the Great Depression," Kevin Hassett, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told ABC's "This Week Sunday."

Hassett said the unemployment rate is expected to hit 16% or higher in the April jobs report, which will be released in early May.

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill aiding small businesses and hospitals severely impaired by the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

The funds in the fourth spending package in just two months will allow tens of millions more Americans to receive critical relief since COVID-19 forced the closure of much of American commerce.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed confidence Sunday that the U.S. economy would "really bounce back" in the third quarter.

"We're putting in an unprecedented amount of fiscal relief into the economy," Mnuchin said told the TV program "Fox News Sunday." "I think this is going to have a significant impact."

Regardless of how soon economies open, health experts note that social distancing policies will remain in place for a long time.

"Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another," coronavirus response coordinator and physician Deborah Birx said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."



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