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Governors try to balance economic crisis with public health threat

President Trump has shared a plan states can use to decide when to lift restrictions on movement and economic activity. But some governors say testing for COVID-19 isn’t near the levels necessary to enable them to reopen. Meanwhile, global health experts expressed doubts about whether the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in a person’s blood means they are immune to reinfection. John Yang reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    State by state, more governors are speaking out about their plans to reopen the economy. But others are concerned about the ramifications of easing restrictions too soon.

    That comes as the pandemic's U.S. death toll stands at around 33,000. And the number of infections nationwide climbed to some 687,000.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war.

  • John Yang:

    President Trump calls it a road map to recovery. But some state and local officials say talk of lifting restrictions is too optimistic, as thousands of new infections and deaths are still being reported daily.

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    How do you plan the reopening? Nobody's ever done this before.

    And how do you plan a reopening of an economy, and, at the same time, be cognizant of the public health crisis that you're still in?

  • John Yang:

    The White House outlined how the nation's governors could begin lifting restrictions in three phases once the number of infections in their state goes down and the testing rate goes up.

    Phase one recommends social distancing and discourages gatherings of more than 10 people and nonessential travel. Phase two limits gatherings to 50 people, and allows travel to resume. Phase three proposes a return to normalcy, while isolating any new cases.

    Some governors say they will begin easing restrictions soon. Governor Gretchen Whitmer said today Michigan will take initial steps on May 1, just two weeks away. And Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is expected to release guidelines for his state next week.

    While the president said yesterday that governors would have the freedom make their own calls, today, he tweeted, "Liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan, and liberate Virginia," all states with Democratic governors who are facing a growing conservative backlash to measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.

    Those are among 42 states, plus the District of Columbia, under stay-at-home orders.

    And a new report from New York state underscores the danger facing long-term care facilities. Twenty of the state's nursing homes have reported at least 20 deaths each. Nationwide, according to a New York Times tally, at least 6,900 people living in or connected to nursing homes have died of the virus.

    As scientists work to learn more about the coronavirus, a top World Health Organization experts said today, it's not clear whether antibodies in the blood of COVID-19 survivors them against reinfection.

    Meanwhile, the damage the pandemic is doing to the world's economic health is becoming more evident.

  • World Bank President David Malpass:

  • David Malpass:

    The COVID-19 pandemic is causing deep economic harm and threatening to erase decades of economic progress and poverty reduction. We're expecting a major global recession. Our estimates suggest a much deeper downturn than the Great Recession.

  • John Yang:

    Germany's top economic official echoed that concern.

  • Peter AltMaier (through translator):

    The German economy is in a situation that is more serious than anything we have experienced in the post-war period. It will be probably more severe than what we have seen during the banking and stock market crisis.

  • John Yang:

    Still, Germany, Europe's largest economy, is poised to lift its partial lockdown. Schools will restart in stages beginning May 4. But a ban on large gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, has been extended to August 31.

    And, today, the United Nations warned that, over the next three to six months, cases in Africa could increase to 10 million. The U.N. report projects the deaths could range anywhere from 300,000 people to as many as 3.3 million.

    In Kenya, doctors are already preparing.

  • Ahmed Kalebi:

    The infection is still going through the community. But we expect an inevitable surge. And that should be happening in the next two to four weeks.

  • John Yang:

    And an embrace of the new normal on this Eastern Orthodox Good Friday. Pews were empty as priests broadcast morning services on television for those observing in the safety of their own homes.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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