Experts talk about Arizona's economic future following COVID-19 pandemic

New White House guidelines outline a phased approach to restoring normal commerce and services, but only for places with strong testing and seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s plans to ease social distancing requirements on a call Thursday with the nation’s governors. The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit locations.

Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools, with each phase lasting at least 14 days, meant to ensure that the virus outbreak doesn’t accelerate again.

The recommendations make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak.

At earliest, the guidelines suggest that some parts of the country could see a resumption in normal commerce and social gatherings after a month of evaluating whether the easing of restrictions leads to a resurgence in virus cases. In other parts of the country, or if virus cases resume an up-tick, it could be substantially longer.

Trump briefed the nation’s governors on the plan Thursday afternoon, saying they were going to be responsible for deciding when it is safe to lift restrictions in their states.

“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors, according to an audio recording obtained by The Associated Press. “We’re going to be standing along side of you.”

Meanwhile, under the federal guidelines, those most susceptible to the respiratory disease would be advised to remain sheltered in place until their area enters the final phase — and even then are advised to take precautions to avoid close contact with other people.

The federal guidelines come after seven governors in the Midwest announced Thursday they will coordinate on reopening the economy, after similar pacts were announced earlier this week in the West and Northeast.

Experts talk about economic recovery

In Arizona, there's a lot of talk about reopening the state's economy around May 1.

Meanwhile, 80% of restaurant workers have been laid off, the hospitality industry hit by 70%, and hotels are reportedly seeing 10% occupancy. People are now hoping that small businesses can hang on until then.

Even if the state's economy reopens, the party won't be back on overnight.

"There’s a lot of thought going into making sure we don’t harm the healthcare system," said Chris Camacho with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.  At the same time, we have to figure out the economic. It’s a very delicate situation right now."

Camacho said the state's young and more diversified economy is better position to rebound in most states, but he expects nearly two years to get there.

"We will see, overtime, to resurgence and aggressive movement of companies coming to town and local companies flourishing," said Camacho. "I’m still optimistic for the long-term for Phoenix, but in the short term have to make sure small businesses can weather the storm."

From a healthcare perspective, former State Health Director Will Humble the state needs widespread virus and antibody testing, while making sure hospital capacity is under control. Then, expect to see the economy open, sector by sector, based on risk versus reward.

"See the Businesses activities. What they do how they do it. Then make a decision on what category of biz can come back first," said Humble.

Until there is a vaccine, the new normal will likely include more people wearing masks more often.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ (In Spanish/En Español)

Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars (In Spanish/En Español)

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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