Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration would soon issue new guidelines to classify US counties according to their risk of coronavirus, in order to guide local authorities in their decision to tighten, relax or maintain restrictions on the everyday life designed to stop the epidemic.
In a letter to state governors, Trump said countries will be classified as low, medium or high risk based on data collected through “robust surveillance tests”. The president added that “expanded testing capabilities” would help the administration “quickly” identify hot spots in the country.
“With each passing day, our growing testing capabilities allow us to better understand the virus and its path,” he writes. “With tests giving us more information about those who are infected, we track the virus and isolate it to prevent it from spreading. This new information will lead to the next phase of our war against this invisible enemy. “
Larry Hogan, the Republican Governor of Maryland, who chairs the Bi-partisan National Governors Association, told the Financial Times that the White House had not informed the governors in advance. He said he held a conference call with Trump and the governors earlier on Thursday and that the letter had not been lifted.
“I have no idea what the letter means, or how they might classify these things,” said Hogan in an interview. “Since we don’t do enough testing, I don’t know how you could possibly determine which countries are low risk or high risk or medium risk.”
Hogan said the lack of testing meant there was not enough data to determine the level of risk in the counties of the country.
“There is no real data to show it because there are not enough tests. So I’m not sure what this card will show or what it will be based on, ”said Hogan. “But I think you’re going to see a lot of concern from governors and local leaders about this.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The United States has taken steps to speed up testing nationwide after initially experiencing delays in testing deployment. One company, Roche, has obtained emergency approval for a high-volume test, while the administration has injected $ 1.4 million into two other companies working on new tests that could detect the virus more quickly .
But the widespread lack of testing has meant that public health officials have a hard time understanding how far the virus has spread – and therefore what steps they should take to stop it.
In recent days, Trump has expressed his eagerness to lift restrictions from certain cities and states, which have shut down parts of the U.S. economy and sent unemployment claims to record highs.
Earlier this week, Trump suggested he could soften federal guidelines encouraging Americans to isolate themselves when the current 15-day window for recommendations closes next week.
Speaking Tuesday at the Rose Garden, Trump has set a specific deadline for his previous warning that “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem.” “I would love the country to open up and prepare for Easter,” which falls on April 12, Trump said on Fox News.
His comments drew criticism from those who feared the president would put the economy above people’s physical health and well-being. Even some members of Mr. Trump’s Republican Party have criticized the move, including Lindsey Graham, the U.S. senator from South Carolina who is generally one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal supporters.
If Mr. Trump were to soften federal directives, the governors of the states that ordered the closings are not required to do the same. Some of them expressed concern about the President’s projections and reiterated that they would leave the restrictions in place until they were sure that public health was not in danger.
Trump made no mention of a particular timetable in Thursday’s letter, but made an optimistic note.
“There is still a long battle ahead, but our efforts are already paying off,” he wrote. “As we improve protections against the virus, Americans across the country hope that the day will soon come when they can resume their normal economic, social and religious lives.”