RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – President Donald Trump outlined new guidance to governors Thursday on reopening sectors of the economy amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) weighs what steps to take next.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump said to governors on the call.
The president’s announcement of guidance for the states came just days after he claimed to have “total” authority on determining when states will reopen.
“The decider in these circumstances is the states. The federal government has limited authority to essentially command states to do something, and in this case, withdraw their specific stay-at-home orders,” said Rick Su, a law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and an expert on the relationship between federal and state governments.
The president presented a three-phase plan. Initially, it calls for social distancing measures to continue but also allows non-essential activities to resume in a minimal capacity and some businesses closed in the last several weeks to reopen while maintaining social distancing guidelines. In phase one, the plan does not call for schools to reopen. The plan still encourages employers to allow for teleworking and to close common areas where employees may gather.
In a statement following the call, Cooper said, “Yesterday I laid out what’s required for North Carolina’s path to gradual re-opening, and it’s good the White House has shared similar guidance, but we still need the federal government to help with testing and personal protective equipment. We will continue working with our federal and local partners to beat this virus, protect people’s health and recover our economy.”
Earlier this week, Cooper ordered additional restrictions on essential businesses to maintain social distancing, including limiting the number of people who can be inside a store at once.
Cooper said in determining whether to extend his stay-at-home order or ease restrictions, he’s looking at: testing, tracing and trends.
“I think the president certainly wants to open up the economy as quickly as possible. We know that in order to safely do that, that we’ve got to provide enough testing out there so we can trace and isolate and make sure that the public is protected while we are easing restrictions, getting people back to work, getting kids back to school but doing it in a new normal,” Cooper said.
He described what that “new normal” would look like, including the likelihood that people would continue to wear masks, that restaurants would have limited seating inside, and that concerts and sporting events could go on with no crowds.
Cooper did not offer a timeline for when he thinks restrictions could be lifted. Earlier this week, more than 100 people gathered in Raleigh to protest the stay-at-home order, with some people urging the governor to lift the order immediately.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday he expects a phased-in approach to reopening businesses.
“We cannot stay closed forever as a state. We just can’t. And so, we need to find a way to get North Carolina reopened absolutely as soon as possible, but we need to make sure it’s safely done so,” he said. “As opposed to just saying OK quarantine’s over, everybody back to work and restaurants go back to the way they were, I think it’ll be a gradual process there, where for example maybe you only go to 50 percent occupancy.”