As the U.S. economy continued to worsen dramatically with another staggering jobless claims report out Thursday, President Donald Trump said Thursday some states could start reopening "literally tomorrow."
Trump's plan to re-open the American economy after a near-total shutdown consists of three graduated phases.
In a call with governors, state leaders were instructed that they could move through the guidelines at their own pace and that the guidelines are not formal orders from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the call.
"Encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country," Trump said earlier Thursday, as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic neared 30,000 Wednesday evening.
The president has said he would "authorize" governors' plans to reopen their states, after reversing his assertion of "total" authority in setting terms earlier this week -- a comment which drew rebukes from several governors, some of whom banded together by region to form geographically-coordinated responses to the virus.
“My administration is issuing new federal guidelines that will allow governors to take a phased, deliberate approach to reopening their individual states," President Trump announces.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 16, 2020
Also speaking from the White House Rose Garden on a chilly Wednesday evening, Vice President Mike Pence, leading the coronavirus task force, signaled data from each state will be used to form the guidance, so states with fewer cases will be given more flexibility.
"Twenty-four percent of the counties of this country have no reported coronavirus cases. In fact, half of the states in America have less than 2,500 cases per state," Pence said. "We are going to reflect on the fact that there will be areas of the country that will require continued mitigation, strong efforts, and there will be other areas of the country that will be given guidance for greater flexibility."
While Trump and his task force pointed to areas of the country with fewer cases, the government's top expert on infectious diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, absent from the Wednesday briefing, told ABC News anchor David Muir on "World News Tonight" to expect a slow rollout dictated by local authorities -- one that's heavily dependent on that community's ability to test, provide medical care and do contact tracing.
Many who have the president's ear have acknowledged that widespread testing and contact tracing is necessary to open the country and get Americans back to work, but Trump has denied any problems with access to testing in the U.S. and continues to push for a May 1 reopening, if not before.