NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: The right plan to get Indiana back on track

The announcement at the end of last week that President Trump has given the country’s governors a three-phase plan to reopen the economy is a good, while cautious, first step in U.S. recovery from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

And that could mean, as Gov. Eric Holcomb predicted, that the reopening of Indiana’s economy could begin in “early May.”

While the emphasis on health and saving lives has been preeminent in closing down the country, we believe it is imperative that officials have a plan in place to restore normal activity as circumstances allow. And that is really the crux of what has been proposed — “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places around the nation that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

While it was heartening to hear President Trump say at Thursday’s press briefing, “We’re starting our life again. We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again,” our concern is that we don’t move too soon or become complacent about the measures we have taken to help slow infections from the virus. So it was equally comforting to hear the president qualify his comments by adding, “This is a gradual process.”

We think it is important that each governor have an arsenal of procedures ready to move their states back to business in an organized, graduated plan that doesn’t simply dispel with all measures of safety and caution. Governors have primary responsibility for public health within their states, and the president’s plan is designed to let them call the shots.

The president outlined a three-phased process to gradually reopen businesses and schools where appropriate.

The phases recommended are: (1.) strict social distancing for all people in public with gatherings of more than 10 people to be avoided and nonessential travel discouraged; (2.) people would be encouraged to maximize social distancing where possible, limit gatherings to no more than 50 people unless precautionary measures are taken, and travel could resume; (3.) a return to normalcy for most Americans, with a focus on identification and isolation of any new infections.

The new guidelines are intended to ease restrictions in some areas of the country that have a low transmission of the coronavirus. The president said parts of the country that are lesser-hit would be able to proceed to “phase one” of his guidelines “literally tomorrow.” But he said he doesn’t want New York or other hard-hit areas to come back too soon.

The guidelines would suggest that some parts of the country could see a return to normal commerce and social gatherings following a month of evaluating whether or not the easing of restrictions leads to an increase in virus cases. But it could take longer in other areas of the country, especially if virus cases do increase.

Gov. Holcomb jointly announced a formal agreement Thursday with the governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Kentucky to coordinate on how and when businesses will open.

“This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time,” the governors assured in a combined statement. “But close coordination will ensure we get this right.”

Gov. Holcomb has asked every industry in Indiana for suggestions to safely reopen and wants those responses by Wednesday. While protesters at the governor’s mansion Saturday demanded a return to normalcy, a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday shows two in three Americans expressed concerns that restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus would be eased too quickly.

We support President Trump’s graduated plan and believe Holcomb is on the right track toward getting us back to business as usual.


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