As I See It: The race to the top to re-open the economy is on!


By Elpidio R. Estioko

After US President Donald Trump relinquished his so-called total responsibility over the pandemic corona virus to re-open the economy to the governors, the race for victory lap despite the projected 3,000 deaths per day by June, is on!

Numbers are going up but governors are re-opening the economy anyway unmindful of the minimum guidelines issued by the president. They are loosening restrictions and apparently, they are being pushed to engage in a major gamble… so they started racing to the top with modified requirements.

I think it is a gamble because if they will not re-open soon, their local economy remains to be paralyzed and there will be more Americans applying for unemployment benefits (EDD).  If they will not, their constituents will just the same criticize them for not acting soon and not taking the risk as local leaders. The governors are in a dilemma… they need to act and gamble to maintain their position. It’s a choice between reopening in the hope that the economy will bounce back as against health issues exposing the workers from being found to be positive and eventually succumbing to the virus.

CNN reported the other day that deaths and cases of corona virus rise in new hot spots including Georgia and Texas. Alaa Elassar, reported in CNN on Monday May 4, 2020, that Gov. Brian Kemp started to ease restrictions on April 24 and re-opened gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, estheticians and massage therapists were able to reopen April 24, with certain rules. Theaters and restaurants were allowed to re-open April 27, also with caveats to maintaining social distancing. Bars, nightclubs and music venues will remain closed, for now.

Kemp said in a statement: “However, moving forward, I am urging Georgians to continue to stay home whenever possible.”

Also in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, who had ordered all Texans to stay home through April 30, announced on April 27 the first phase of the state’s plan to safely reopen Texas.  “All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums, and libraries were permitted to reopen on Friday, May 1, but must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts,” Abbott said.

The situation is a little bit more calculated in California. Elassar reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom said on May 1 that he is “days, not weeks” away from beginning to lift some restrictions in the state’s stay-at-home order. On Friday, May 8, 2020, partial reopening for retail businesses were ordered by the governor — clothing stores, florists, and bookshops — will be allowed to reopen with curbside pickup and physical distancing. Associated manufacturing and supply chain for those retail businesses will also be able to get back to work.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed personal services businesses and restaurants in most parts of Alaska to reopen April 24, but with restrictions. Hair salons, according to the report, can only admit customers by reservation. Restaurants will have to keep distances between tables and can’t exceed 25% of their normal capacity. The city of Anchorage delayed the new rules until April 27.

Dunleavy said “Alaska is not in a rush to reopen but is responding to a low infection rate in the state and a belief that they can quickly isolate any future outbreaks.”

It was also reported that Florida will reopen certain businesses through much of the state on May 4 except in the counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six-foot space between tables and indoor seating at 25% capacity. Retail can operate at 25% of indoor capacity, and bars, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers will remain closed. Churches remain on “voluntary social distancing,” and movie theaters remain closed.

In Hawaii, the statewide stay at home order to expire April 30 has been extended until May 31, Gov. David Ige announced. Ige said he has also extended the order that travelers quarantine for 14 days after their arrival to the state until May 31.

Beaches are now open for exercising such as jogging, running or walking but people cannot loiter on the beach and must maintain social distance, Ige said. Groups of two people or more are now allowed to fish for subsistence or commercial purposes, Ige said. A previous restriction limited such gatherings to two people.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said “April 30 that the state’s stay-at-home orders will be extended until mid-May. But he signed a new directive that allows expanded outdoor and recreational activities as of May 1. All retail stores will be allowed to operate with curbside pickup (currently allowed for restaurants and eateries). Retail cannabis dispensaries will be included. With restrictions, golf courses and tennis courts can open while the reopening of Nevada’s casinos is still a long way off.”

The same report said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a “New York State on PAUSE” executive order which took effect on March 22. Nonessential businesses are ordered to stay closed until May 15.

“Now that we’ve shown we can flatten the curve and our efforts to control the spread of the virus are working, we must focus on a smart, effective plan to un-pause New York,” Cuomo said last week. “The first part of the plan is to do no harm – don’t let that infection rate go up to the best of your ability and don’t lose the progress that we have made. Second, now that we have some stability in our health care system after a weeklong overdrive, we continue to strengthen that system and ramp up testing and contact tracing to identify those who are sick and isolate them so they don’t transmit the virus to others. Then we can focus on phasing an economic return to the new normal — but we need all those activities going on at the same time for our plan to un-pause New York to work.”

Cuomo explained: “We’re going to reopen in phases which will be based on a regional analysis, particularly economic regions. The first phase would include construction and manufacturing activities – and within that “those businesses that have a low risk”. Phase two would utilize more of a business-by-business analysis using a matrix that determines each businesses overall importance and risk in reopening.”

Cuomo said the state would leave two weeks between phases so it can monitor the effects of what it has done. Two weeks is the incubation period of the virus, per experts.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee extended Washington’s stay-at-home order until May 31. Most state parks and recreational areas will be reopened in May 5. The state also will allow to people to play golf again, but it will be limited to only two people playing together at a time, except when the players live in the same home. No overnight camping will be allowed on any public land.

On May 4, Inslee said individual counties can ask for an exception to state corona virus regulations on businesses. In order to apply, a county must have fewer than 75,000 people, with no new Covid-19 cases for three consecutive weeks.

So, the race is on despite the growing numbers… and the governors have sole responsibility for their decisions!

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedback, comments… please email the author at [email protected])