FEMA, CDC plan for slow reopening of country

Credit: MGN Image

Numbers out Wednesday show just how hard the American economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and federal officials are looking at the best way to reopen the country.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales fell a record 8.7 percent in March, revenue for restaurants and bars plummeted 26.5 percent, and auto dealerships saw a similar drop of 25.6 percent.

As that sinks in, FEMA and the CDC have started to outline a plan of how to slowly reopen the economy.

The first step? Schools.

The agencies say that when states and local governments decide to reopen schools, that’s the signal we can get back to work.

The initial FEMA-CDC draft maps out four conditions to reopening the country:

  1. The infection rate is “genuinely low”;
  2. A monitoring system is in place to detect the expected spike in COVID-19 cases;
  3. A health system capable of handling the surge; and
  4. A health system that has enough beds and staff to ramp up.

Lee County Commission Chairman Brian Hamman said local data varies from other parts of the state.

“If we continue on this flat or downward trend, it’s really important to figure out ways to open things up,” he said.

He is working on a timeline for how the county can get back to business.

“When you talk about opening things back up, I envision it happening in waves. You’ll open a little up and then measure and then open a little more up and then measure a little bit more.”

Sen. Marco Rubio posted his thoughts on Twitter, saying, “At some point in the near future, there’s going to have to be changes to the current restrictions. They are just not sustainable long-term and when those changes, no matter how careful they are in making them, there are going to be increases in infections, there are going to be increases in the number of deaths, tragically. And so the difficult task before public leaders now is how do you balance this?”

CDC Director Robert Redfield said there are a “few more things” that need to be in place before the country can reopen.

“Expand the public health capacity for early diagnosis, isolation and contact tracing,” he said. “This is going to be fundamental to maintain and contain cases as they occur.”

The Florida Department of Health said that contact tracing is being done locally, but we don’t know to what extent.

FEMA and the CDC said reopening small portions of the country by May 1 is possible, but not probable, especially in Florida.

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