The White House's guidelines for opening up the economy are science-based. Red states are ignoring them and people will die

The White House's guidelines for opening up the economy are science-based. Red states are ignoring them and people will die
Image via Gage Skidmore.

When Donald Trump took to Twitter on April 18 to call for an uprising against Democratic governors who were oppressing their people by trying to contain the worst public health crisis in a century, I noted that those states were following his own recommendation to maintain stay-at-home orders through at least April 30.


That kind of eye-popping incoherence continues apace, as Republican governors move to re-open their economies contrary to the guidelines the White House issued on April 16--and as Trump and the conservative press cheer them on.

The regime's "Guidelines for Opening Up America Again" offer a set of "data-driven conditions each region or state should satisfy before proceeding to a phased opening." They include a "downward trajectory" of both presumed COVID-19 cases and "influenza-like illnesses" over a 14-day period, a similar period of confirmed cases declining or a falling rate of positive tests and having a "robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing."

It also details a set of "core readiness responsibilities," preparation states should have in place before a gradual process of re-opening their economies can begin. They include having widespread testing and contact-tracing in place, the ability to surge healthcare capacity to respond to spikes in demand and the "ability to quickly and independently supply sufficient Personal Protective Equipment and critical medical equipment to handle [a] dramatic surge in need."

All of this is exactly what public health experts say we need to have in place before opening up stores, restaurants and schools safely. But, at present, exactly zero states have met these criteria. The guidelines do say that "state and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances," but as I noted last week, the states pushing forward are among those with the lowest per capita testing rates, and have fragile, underfunded healthcare infrastructure (as well as high numbers of uninsured residents).

While Trump kneecapped Georgia Governor Brian Kemp last by condemning his decision to re-open nail- and hair-salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors, Axios reports that was the result of a personal grievance Trump has been nursing against Kemp rather than any concern over the health of the people of Georgia. "Trump, in general terms, had offered support to Kemp in their previous phone calls, leading Kemp to believe the president had his back on his plan," according to the report. And the conservative media and various pundits on the right have been relentless in promoting the bizarre idea that this pandemic is over.

The White House's guidelines are obviously the product of serious public health officials and not the WH comms team or the President's failson, Jared Kushner, who reportedly played a key role in delaying the regime's response to the pandemic and now claims that we're past the crisis. The cautious approach to easing social distancing restrictions that's outlined in the guidance is one that states should follow but many won't.

One need not be a crack epidemiologist to know where this is going. Singapore, Germany, Ghana and the Japanese island of Hokkaido all relaxed lockdown measures too soon and paid a price. New models released this week by researchers at Harvard and MIT project that loosening restrictions in Mississippi, Georgia and Florida will lead to thousands of excess fatalities in those states.

It's tragically easy to predict the coming surge of infections in states that are opening up without sufficient disease surveillance or facilities for isolating those who fall ill, and it's demoralizing to know that elected officials could avoid a lot of suffering and death but are choosing not to.

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