States Largely Ignoring White House Reopening Guidelines, AP Finds

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, May 08, 2020 - 09:30 AM

After publishing detailed CDC guidelines for states that were purportedly shelved in favor of the much-more-vague White House guidelines - the White House defended the decision, saying it was part of delegating more authority and flexibility to the states - the AP reported Friday that most states aren't following the federal guidelines anyway.

The detailed, 17-page CDC report was purportedly shelved, with the government scientists who leaked it complaining that they were told it would "never see the light of day", to reinforce the notion that the responsibility for reopening the economy lies squarely with the states (just like the media wanted, remember?) And although states and public health experts have reportedly blamed the administration for federal guidance that has been "anything put clear," some of the states have said they're doing just fine without the federal government's input.

Thanks to the vagaries of the Trump Administration's 'guidance', the AP found that Georgia is technically in compliance with at least some of the requirements - including the requirement that states report a downward trajectory over 2 weeks (though the guidelines don't specify if this means 14 days of uninterrupted day-over-day declines, or whether states should rely on rolling averages. Still, it's doubtful all the data would justify Georgia's accelerated schedule of reopening, said to be the fastest in the country. 

But even so, for all their flexibility, the AP found there are 17 states which clearly do not meet the standards, including the downward trajectory, to reopen, as the number of cases and deaths reported daily continues to climb.

The AP determined that 17 states did not meet a key benchmark set by the White House for loosening up - a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. And yet many of those have begun to reopen or are about to do so, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

Because of the broad way in which the nonbinding guidelines are written, other states, including Georgia, have technically managed to meet the criteria and reopen despite not seeing a steady decline in cases and deaths.

Asked Thursday about states reopening without meeting the benchmarks, President Donald Trump said: “The governors have great power as to that, given by us. We want them to do that. We rely on them. We trust them. And hopefully they are making the right decisions.”

Other states which have decidedly not met the standard of 2 weeks of declines, but have met other requirements laid out in the federal guidelines, include Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. Oregon is one such state, and despite being deep-blue, its governor has decided to press ahead with a reopening plan that will see more retail stores and daycares reopen on May 15.

Even California, which has met some of the guidelines but not others, is beginning to reopen already, even as its governor once claimed the state would stay shuttered until every unnecessary death could be prevented, a statement that energized the reopening push within his state by small business owners and others.

Still, some governors have simply opted to prepare their own guidelines and opted to disregarded the federal rules.

As the governor of Nebraska - one of the 17 states that the AP says doesn't meet the criteria - put it, just because the virus is killing people, doesn't mean we need to shut down the entire economy to try and stop even one unnecessary death from occurring. That would be like banning cars and airplanes because they occasionally crash.

In Nebraska new cases and positivity rates increased in recent weeks, but Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, eased rules to allow salons, tattoo parlors and restaurants to reopen with restrictions in most counties. Churches also were allowed to resume in-person services, weddings and funerals last Monday, with some restrictions.

Ricketts said Wednesday that the number of new cases is naturally going to increase as testing ramps up, and suggested a statewide lockdown was too drastic.

"We could ban just about all deaths on the interstate by reducing the speed to 5 mph, but we don’t do that," he said.

For its part, Utah has created its own color-coded reopening plan from scratch.

Utah is following its own color-coded reopening system.

"We had that plan long before there was a federal plan,” said retired Utah National Guard Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, who heads the state’s response. "It’s a solid plan that lays out the road to recovery."

"Of the 33 states that have had a 14-day downward trajectory of either cases or positive test rates, 25 are partially opened or moving to reopen within days, the AP analysis finds.

Is it wrong to oppose lockdowns, or suggest that there might be a better, more sustainable strategy that doesn't have so many negative ancillary repercussions? Absolutely not. Many scientists around the world have continued to debate the best way forward, and with so much about this virus remaining uncertain, a measured debate should be encouraged, not stifled.