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Healthcare

Some governors believe their states ready to reopen after coronavirus shutdown, CDC head says

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK April 15 (Reuters) - Governors of about 20 U.S. states where the new-coronavirus pandemic has had a low impact believe they may be ready to start the process of reopening their economies by President Donald Trump’s May 1 target date, a top U.S. health official said on Wednesday.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC was prepared to assist those states in the process of lifting restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the virus, which has contributed to the deaths of at least 28,000 people across the country.

“There are a number of states - 19, 20 states - that really have had limited impact from it. So I think we will see some states that are - the governors feel that they’re ready - we’re poised to assist them with that reopening,” Redfield said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Governors in the hardest-hit states in the country have resisted a declaration by Trump that he alone has the power to decide when to begin reopening the economy and allowing nonessential businesses to operate again. Pressure is mounting for an early reopening to reverse a sharp contraction of the economy and millions of job cuts.

On Monday evening, Trump told reporters some 20 states were “in extremely good shape” and might be able to reopen “fairly quickly,” as the president announced that he was close to completing a plan for ending America’s coronavirus shutdown, which has thrown millions out of work.

While Trump said some parts of the country may see a gradual restart even before the target date of May 1, some of the country’s coronavirus hot spots reported a spike in deaths on Tuesday, as governors from New York to California urged caution and the need for more widespread testing before reopening. Even so, New York and other states have reported progress in combating the pandemic in recent days.

New York City, the hardest-hit U.S. city in the coronavirus pandemic, revised its official COVID-19 death toll sharply higher to more than 10,000 on Tuesday, to include victims presumed to have perished from the lung disease but never tested.

Louisiana, another coronavirus hot spot, and California also reported record daily spikes in deaths on Tuesday, despite tentative signs across the country in recent days the outbreak was beginning to ebb.

The new approach of counting probable deaths adopted by New York City could pave the way for similar policies elsewhere across the country, possibly leading to a surge in reported U.S. coronavirus mortality, which stood at 28,446 as of Wednesday morning out of a total of 607,794 cases.

Health experts, including Anthony Fauci, Trump’s top infectious disease adviser, have also cautioned that hastily reopening the economy might backfire and have stressed the importance of rapid, widespread testing.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway insisted on Wednesday that Trump alone should make that call. “The most important thing to recognize is that most suited, best person to rejuice the Donald Trump economy is Donald Trump,” she said on Fox Business Network.

The Republican president, who is up for reelection in November, is scheduled to hold a day-long series of calls with representatives of the banking, retail, healthcare, technology, agriculture and energy sectors, among many others, according to the White House.

Details of the federal plan began emerging on Wednesday as the Washington Post reported that the CDC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have put together a public health strategy to reopen parts of the country. Articulated in three phases, the strategy includes a national communication campaign, a community readiness assessment and emergency funding for testing and protective equipment.

Reporting Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey in Washington, writing by Maria Caspani, Editing by Frank McGurty and Steve Orlofsky

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