If the “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” the White House released mid-April have encouraged anyone that maybe COVID-19 will not permanently send our economy back to the 1930s, they also remind us that the United States is caught in a game of chicken with financial ruin. As in every game of chicken, the vital question is “When should I swerve?”
Importantly, the guidelines do not win the game: they expand the players. They entrust governors and other state and local officials with the most crucial decision facing our country: “When should we start reopening our economy?” Although the guidelines indicate that states or regions should “satisfy” certain gating criteria “before proceeding to Phase One,” they defer to non-federal officials:
State and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances (e.g., metropolitan areas that have suffered severe COVID outbreaks, rural and suburban areas where outbreaks have not occurred or have been mild). Additionally, where appropriate, Governors should work on a regional basis to satisfy these criteria and to progress through the phases outlined below.