President Donald Trump unveiled national guidelines on Thursday afternoon to reopen the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In a shift from his comments earlier this week, he says the final call is up to each governor.
“You are going to call your own shots,” Trump said Thursday, a person familiar with the conversation told CNN. “I’ve gotten to know almost all of you, most of you I’ve known and some very well. You are all very capable people, I think in all cases, very capable people. And you’re going to be calling your shots.”
Despite what Trump has previously claimed about “absolute authority,” it’s not up to the President to decide when and how the country reopens.
“There is no legislation that explicitly gives the President the power to override states’ public health measures. In addition, Trump said last week that he prefers, because of the Constitution, to let governors make their own decisions on coronavirus restrictions.”
It’s the governors and mayors who have ultimate say. After all, they were the ones who instituted the shutdowns in the first place.
Despite business leaders saying more widespread coronavirus testing is the ultimate key to reigniting the country’s economy, Trump is also punting testing responsibilities to the states. “We want the states to administer these tests, for the most part,” Trump said Wednesday. “We want them to do it. We’re not going to be running a parking lot in Arkansas.”
These new Trump guidelines are similar to the social distancing guidelines announced in March and extended in April – while not mandatory, they carry the weight of the federal government and the presidency.
Already, we’re seeing local leaders operate on their own timelines, beyond what the Trump administration has advised. Wisconsin, New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles have all pushed back open dates to at least May 15 – beyond Trump’s May 1 goal.
But the difference between Trump’s guidelines and the governors’ is already causing friction. Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (a potential Biden VP pick) saw protests in her state after tightening stay-at-home restrictions amid a worsening outbreak.
The Point: Trump’s new guidelines are exactly that. Guidelines.