As President Donald Trump continues to propagate dangerous hypotheses for coronavirus treatments on national television and the country struggles to ramp up coronavirus testing, officials working with his administration’s task force are quietly barreling ahead with plans to help states on reopen the U.S. economy.
This week the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notified officials involved in the coronavirus task force’s efforts that it would dispatch “liaisons” across the country to work with states to help them streamline their efforts for opening local businesses, according to an internal agency document reviewed by The Daily Beast. The officers will help states implement the reopening guidelines developed by the federal government and ensure that officials have what they need to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, an official working on that effort told The Daily Beast.
And as of Thursday, the Center for Disease Control, in coordination with FEMA, had finalized guidelines on how states could begin to open summer camps, restaurants,, bars and religious centers and sent them to the White House for approval. The guidelines are separate, and more intricate, than the ones published by the White House last week. Officials inside the CDC said they’ve been working on the guidelines for several weeks and anticipated that the White House would release them to states in the coming days.
A version of the CDC and FEMA guidelines were previously obtained by The Washington Post. Officials in both agencies said the draft has changed since but did not say how. The Post reported the guidelines included a three-phase plan—the first focusing on preparing the nation to reopen through a community readiness assessment. “That’s the phase we’re in right now,” a CDC official told The Daily Beast. “We’re moving full-steam ahead on that. We got to make sure we get this part right.”
FEMA did not respond to a request for comment. The CDC did not comment on the record for this story.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have consistently said that they would continue to advise a “phased approach” to reopening the U.S. economy, as reflected in the already published White House guidelines. They’ve also said that they would leave it up to governors to decide when and how to get their people back to work. But taken together, the finalization of the new, more granular CDC guidelines and the dispatching of FEMA liaisons indicate that the federal government is working with states to streamline the reopening of the country.
“We’re opening our country, it is very exciting to see,” Trump said at a press briefing Friday evening. “The country is a great place. And it is going to be greater than ever before. I really believe that.”
Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) has already begun reopening businesses in his state, including salons, gyms and bowling alleys—a move that concerned White House and coronavirus task force officials. Trump this week told reporters that he was “not happy” with Kemp and that it was too soon to open businesses that attracted large numbers of people that required people to touch common surfaces.
The movement comes at a time when the White House continues to deflect criticism that the president, who this week suggested people might be able to inject disinfectants to kill the virus, has not done enough to ensure the safety of Americans before opening up the economy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. coronavirus death toll ticks above 50,000 Friday and scientists, including those working on the president’s own coronavirus task force, claim the country does not yet have enough testing capacity to safely send Americans back to work. Vice President Pence told reporters Friday evening that the U.S. would “dramatically increase testing” over the coming weeks, but did not offer details on how that would happen.