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Can pandemic restrictions be lifted, as U.S. COVID-19 deaths continue to rise?

At the White House, President Trump is releasing new guidelines for ending pandemic shutdowns. But across the country, more than 32,000 are dead from the novel coronavirus, and millions have lost their jobs -- erasing years of economic gains. State and local officials warn that without a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, it is not clear whether businesses can safely reopen. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    At the White House tonight, President Trump is putting out guidelines for starting to end the shutdowns imposed as a result of the pandemic.

    Across the nation, officials have put out new numbers on COVID-19's toll in line and livelihoods, nearly 32,000 dead, and millions more thrown out of work.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the economy, another 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. That new jobless claims total of 22 million people means that all the gains of the last 10 years were wiped out in just four weeks.

    The economy also lost 70,000 jobs in March, ending a 113-month streak of job growth, a stunning turnaround, after hitting 50-year unemployment lows, just months ago. The economic freefall is further fueling President Trump and others' efforts to end shelter-in-place rules and reopen parts of the country.

    On a call with all 50 governors today, sources tell the "PBS NewsHour" the president laid out a three-phase approach to lifting state restrictions, with guidelines for individuals, employers and other groups, like schools, bars, and hospitals.

    He told governors they could — quote — "call their own shots" on when to open.

    Earlier today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards underscored the need to reopen state business.

  • Governor John Bel Edwards:

    We're not going to go back to normal until we have a vaccine and some effective therapeutic treatments, but we're not going to wait until then before we start to reopen the economy.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned, the president's rush to restart could backfire and cause a boomerang effect.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio:

    If he's smart about it and careful about it, we can actually get to a restart of the economy that we can sustain. If he jumps too soon, it'll be horrible. It'll set us back further.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And seven governors in the Midwest announced today they will work in coordination to reopen their economies, following similar agreements earlier this week by governors in the Northeast and governors on the West Coast.

    The immediate effects of the economic downturn are already being felt. Food pantry providers say demand is skyrocketing, but donations have declined.

    In Dallas, Texas, today, cars snaked along the highway, waiting for National Guard troops to distribute boxes of food. And millions of Americans anticipating their $1,200 stimulus checks will have to wait longer, as technical glitches keep those who file taxes with services like TurboTax or H&R Block from receiving those funds.

    As they navigate the economic burdens, Americans also face grim new developments in the public health crisis. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is now a new national hot spot, after more than 640 cases were traced back to a Smithfield pork plant since shuttered.

    In a small New Jersey town, the virus continues to devastate nursing home populations. According to The New York Times, police there discovered 17 bodies inside one facility, where 68 people recently died; 26 had tested positive for COVID-19.

    Countries around the world are also still grappling with containing the virus and mitigating the financial fallout. In Northeastern France, an optical business owner says he's looking at months of lost business and doesn't know how he can safely reopen his shop.

  • Gregory Klein (through translator):

    I don't see how we can fit glasses on people wearing masks, masks that we don't yet have at the moment in any case. I don't see how I can ask my employees to work without masks.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Authorities in Greece have tightened restrictions ahead of Sunday's Orthodox Easter. Police are now stopping and questioning drivers. Anyone traveling for the holiday faces a fine of 300 euros, or $326.

    A similar lockdown in Japan, with more than 9,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 200 deaths, and where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today declared a nationwide emergency to discourage travel during an upcoming holiday.

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (through translator):

    We ask local governments to urge residents not to take nonessential, non-urgent trips back to their hometowns or any trips that involve travel between areas and prefectures to avoid the spread during Golden Week.

    The latest celebration on hold, as the world struggles to stop the virus spread.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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