In an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) the national economy is closed, which is resulting in millions of people unemployed and businesses wondering if they will survive. Shelter-in-place and social distancing policies are working to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the longer the economy remains closed the greater the damage will be. There is great uncertainty as to how to balance containing the virus and allowing businesses to re-open and people to go back to work. This has become the focus of President Donald Trump who recently released guidelines on how to do just that. Yet, he is deferring to individual state governors to begin the process of re-opening their respective economies.
Governor Kim Reynolds is working on a phase-in approach to re-opening Iowa’s economy. In preparation, the Governor is utilizing President Trump’s guidelines as a basis, and is also working with other governors, especially from Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming to determine the best method.
In preparing to reopen the economy, Governor Reynolds stated that she is moving from an “aggressive mitigation strategy” to focusing on “targeted containment.” Recently, the Governor announced that elective surgeries can resume as long as hospitals are prepared to handle COVID-19 patients. Farmers markets can also resume as long social distancing is continued.
On May 1, certain businesses in 77 Iowa counties will be allowed to reopen.* Businesses are allowed to reopen in these counties because either no coronavirus has been reported or there is evidence of a downward trend in positive cases. The businesses in these 77 counties that can reopen include restaurants, gyms, retail stores, and malls. Some restrictions apply such as operating at 50 percent capacity to continue social distancing. Community, social, recreational, and leisure events may also resume as long as they are limited to 10 people. Religious gatherings may also resume as long as social distancing policies are followed.
President Trump’s guidelines begin with certain standards or “gating criteria” that must be met in order to proceed with re-opening the economy. The Wall Street Journal noted President Trump’s “guidelines are only broadly proscriptive, but no one can say they ignore the coronavirus science or health experts.”
The guidelines being offered allow each state to establish their own course for re-opening their economy. “In deferring to the states, the guidelines honor the best traditions of American federalism,” argued The Wall Street Journal. Each state has been impacted differently. Iowa’s battle with COVID-19 is different than New York or Michigan. In fact, the impact of the virus even varies throughout the state. This may cause Governor Reynolds to allow businesses in some counties to re-open sooner than others.
The standards or “gating criteria” of President Trump’s guidelines focus on symptoms, cases, and hospital preparedness:
Once a state has met these guidelines, a phased-in approach can begin to re-open the economy. President Trump’s plan consists of three phases:
President Trump’s guidelines for “Opening Up America Again” are broad and each state will be different as they proceed to restart their respective economies. Governor Reynolds does not have a specific time table of when Iowa will begin to re-open, but the groundwork has begun. One important goal Iowa is working on is additional testing for the virus. Governor Reynolds recently announced the “Test Iowa” initiative, which has the goal to test 3,000 Iowans per day. The “Test Iowa” initiative will help meet the “gating criteria” for allowing Iowa’s economy to gradually begin to re-open.
“Twenty million jobless in four weeks and food lines are a human tragedy. The longer the lockdowns the more long-term damage there will be in lost human and physical capital—and the weaker the recovery. Americans want to defeat COVID-19, and they have shown they will sacrifice to do it, but they don’t want poverty to be the price they have to pay for victory,” noted The Wall Street Journal.
Both President Trump and Governor Reynolds understand the difficult objective of balancing and re-opening the economy while controlling the spread of COVID-19.