President Donald Trump says he strongly disagrees with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to reopen part of that state’s economy, especially by putting beauty salons and other establishments that require close personal contact back in business.
Georgia’s move to reopen its economy is the most aggressive in the US, but many other states are also looking for ways to put people back to work, even while the coronavirus still remains a public health threat.
And a coronavirus model routinely cited by the White House warns that no state should be opening before May 1, and that Georgia shouldn’t reopen until June 19 – almost eight weeks from now.
“It’s just too soon,” Trump said Wednesday at the daily White House news briefing on coronavirus when asked about Kemp’s timetable. “The spas and the beauty parlors and the barber shops … I love them but they can want a little bit longer, just a little bit, not much, because safety has to predominate.”
He said he told Kemp “very simply that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.”
Kemp, a staunch ally of Trump, on Monday announced Georgia would allow nail salons, massage therapists, bowling alleys and gyms to open Friday. In-person church services can resume. Restaurants and movie theaters can open Monday, but bars cannot open yet.
Many public health officials warned Kemp is moving too quickly, and some business owners said they would keep their doors closed. Mayors said they feared Kemp’s action would deepen the coronavirus crisis in their communities.
CNN has reached out to Kemp’s office for comment. After Trump’s comments, Kemp tweeted that he appreciated Trump’s “bold leadership and insight.”
“Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials. We will continue with this approach to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians. … I am confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump’s infectious disease adviser, was asked what he’d say to Kemp.
“If I were advising the governor, i would tell him to be careful,” Fauci said. “Going ahead and leapfrogging into phases where you should not be, I would advise him, as a health official and a physician, not to do that.”
States shouldn’t reopen before May 1, coronavirus model shows
While other states discussed plans to reopen parts of their economies, a coronavirus model routinely cited by the White House warns that no state should be opening before May 1.
South Carolina and Georgia, which are leading the pack to get their economic engines humming again this week, should not open until June 5 and June 19, respectively, according to the model maintained by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It was updated Tuesday.
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Montana has the best forecast at May 1, while the only other states that should open by May 10, the model says, are Alaska, Hawaii, North Carolina, Vermont and West Virginia. North Carolina is the only of the six states with more than 1,000 cases, as of Wednesday afternoon.
About half the states in the country should remain closed until May 25 or later, with Arizona (June 23), South Dakota (June 25), Iowa (June 26), Nebraska (June 30) and North Dakota (July 12) rounding out the bottom of the list.
The reopening dates are based on an assumption that states will have other measures in place – aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolation, limits on the size of gatherings – to prevent a resurgence of the virus.
The IHME model relies on a conservative threshold of one infection per 1 million people, which is the level of infection each state could conceivably manage using containment strategies, such as widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation of new cases, according to an explanation of the model.
Experts to states: Slow down
As the numbers grow, the timeline for relaxing social distancing measures should be slowed down, Murray said.
IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray’s team was taken aback when Georgia, which still has a high number of infections, announced it would soon ease restrictions, he said. Kemp has said his state is prepared to handle an uptick in cases as businesses begin reopening Friday.
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“If people start to go back to normal social interaction or even progressively go back, the risk of transmission will go up … and then you go back to the sort of exponential rise that was happening before we put in social distancing,” Murray told CNN. “The risk is very great for resurgence from these early openings.”
Redfield walks back comments
On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director gave an ominous forecast of a possible second wave of the virus in the winter.
“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Robert Redfield told The Washington Post. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”
Trump and Redfield on Wednesday walked back Redfield’s comments. Trump claimed Redfield was “totally misquoted in the media on a statement about the fall season and the virus.”
“He was talking about the flu and corona(virus) coming together at the same time. And corona(virus) could just be some little flareups that we’ll take care of,” he added.
Redfield said, “I didn’t say this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more complicated – or more difficult and potentially complicated because we’ll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time.”
First Covid-19 death happened in California, not Washington state
The US has recorded more than 846,000 infections and at least 46,500 deaths.
News emerged Wednesday that the first death in the nation – previously believed to the February 29 death of a patient in Kirkland, Washington – actually came February 6 in Santa Clara County, California.
California is first state to recommend testing for asymptomatic people
To safely move forward, experts have emphasized the country should be able to track, trace and isolate cases.
The spread is something health officials all over California are trying to tackle, now recommending coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people who live or work in high-risk environments such as nursing homes or hospitals.
The new guidelines from the state’s health department were announced in a Sunday memo. They make California the first state in the nation to broaden its guidelines for testing to include those without symptoms, state health officials told CNN.
California is averaging 14,500 coronavirus tests a day, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, calling the number “still inadequate.”
The US has so far conducted 4 million tests
In two plans for reopening society, economists and public health experts say millions of tests should be conducted each week before restrictions can be lifted.
One report estimates at least 3,000,000 and up to 30 million tests should be conducted weekly, while the other says the US should be conducting 20 million tests each day.
So far, the country has performed about 4 million tests. While federal officials tout the country’s testing capacity, some state leaders – including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker – have reported that while they may have the necessary machines, they lack the materials and staff to run them.
A test that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration may mean Americans can mail in their results. The test would allow patients to collect their samples using an at-home test kit and then mail it into the lab for testing, the FDA said Tuesday.
States, cities grapple with how to move forward
Despite the questions surrounding tests, many US governors and mayors have turned their attention to reopening their economies, even as some locations say the death toll is not going down.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday announced an incremental reopening plan with social distancing guidelines observed. For example, restaurants could reopen April 29 and beauty salons on May 1.
Governors in Montana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania discussed plans to reopen businesses, and the Maryland governor said he’d announce his plans Friday. Governors in Arizona and California talked about letting hospitals perform elective or scheduled surgeries again.
Last week, the federal government said in order to launch the first of three phases of reopening, states should wait to see a 14-day decline in cases.
South Carolina and Georgia have hit neither milestone but announced they’ll be easing restrictions.
Atlanta is exploring whether the city has legal grounds for putting different orders in place than what Kemp has announced, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN on Tuesday
“I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on,” she said.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson told CNN on Wednesday, “Savannah is not prepared to reopen.”
In Boston, officials have plenty of work to do to contain the virus, Mayor Marty Walsh told CNN, and it’s “pretty scary” to think some states are considering reopening. Boston is still not at its peak of cases and the surge is going to continue, he said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced certain stores are allowed to open at 20% capacity, and beaches can reopen, too, but schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg told CNN on Wednesday that he thought McMaster’s reopening plan was “a measured response” that took safety and social distancing into account.
“It’s not like he opened the barn door and everything flies out,” Tecklenburg said.
He said Georgia may have gone too far with its plan, which allows “contact businesses” such as barber shops and beauty salons to reopen.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee announced most businesses across the state will be able to reopen May 1, once the state’s stay-at-home order has expired – but hinted some may be able to open sooner.
But some governors were not optimistic.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said the state recorded 19 fatalities and 154 new infections on Wednesday, the highest daily numbers for Minnesota so far. Walz went on to say it appears the state is climbing the slope.
California’s governor discussed the timeline for the return to normalcy.
“No one wants to share that information more with you than I do,” Newsom said at the start of his daily press conference. But he stopped short with the words, “There is no date.”
However, Newsom said hospitals were now encouraged to perform some medical procedures that had been delayed because of the pandemic, such as heart valve replacements, angioplasty and tumor removals, and key preventive care services, such as colonoscopies.
Las Vegas mayor: ‘They better figure it out’
In a startling interview on CNN, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the city’s businesses should reopen, but she refused to provide any social distancing guidelines on how to do so safely.
“I am not a private owner. That’s the competition in this country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public,” Goodman, an independent, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday.
“Right now, we’re in a crisis health-wise, and so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job.”
Governor Steve Sisolak told CNN, “We are clearly not ready to open,” and the leader of the Casino Workers’ Union called the mayor’s push to reopen “outrageous.”
The power to reopen the casinos belongs to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, not Goodman.
The board has put out guidelines for the reopening of casinos once the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted. Establishments would need to submit a plan at least seven days in advance, or as soon as possible, and follow 18 procedures to comply with coronavirus control requirements, the board said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to give a correct timeframe for the earliest date Georgia could safely reopen, according to the model maintained by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
CNN’s Augie Martin, Jacqueline Howard and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.