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Reopening economies should be a ‘delicate dance,’ say health experts

Although the pace of infection has slowed in some U.S. coronavirus hot spots, the overall numbers keep rising. Nearly a third of the world’s three million confirmed cases are in the U.S., which has also recorded 55,000 deaths. But despite the disease’s continued spread, state and local officials are facing persistent pressure to get their communities back to business. Stephanie Sy reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The numbers keep building in the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the pace slows in some hot spots.

    The United States now has nearly a third of the world's three million infections and 55,000 deaths.

    The White House this evening is also rolling out a plan to expand testing to pinpoint those who test positive and track their contacts.

    At the same time, tensions are growing over getting back to business.

    Stephanie Sy begins our coverage tonight.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    It's the start of a new work week, and most Americans are still at home.

    But, in some states, more doors are opening for business. Georgia was one of the first states to begin relaxing restrictions last week. That continued today, with restaurants and movie theaters resuming normal operations. The grand reopening at this Georgia gym over the weekend was quiet, with only a few venturing in for a work out.

    But manager Mike Martino says his employees needed this.

  • Mike Martino:

    They have bills to pay. They have mortgages. They have car payments. So, we really wanted to start to get in, so we could start getting some funds back into their pockets, so they can actually get back to some type of normalcy.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Elsewhere, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his state will begin letting some businesses reopen on Friday.

    Meanwhile, public health experts in Washington warn that it's too soon to go back to business as usual. White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Deborah Birx said Sunday that social distancing measures should last for months.

  • Deborah Birx:

    Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    At the U.S. epicenter in New York, officials are cautious about restarting the economic engines. And they canceled the state's June presidential primary today. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio:

    There's a little bit of a tale of two cities going on here in this country, the places that seem to be putting economics ahead of human lives, and then those of us who are trying to focus on the health and safety of people first, and then build out our economic restart from there.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    But for countless small businesses in the U.S., it's about survival.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are pressing the Trump administration to set aside at least $10 billion in small business rescue money for minority banks and the like.

    They say aid is not reaching low-income communities. And even big business is sounding the alarm, like factory farming giant Tyson Foods. The company, which has been criticized for its treatment of workers through the pandemic, took out full-page ads in major newspapers on Sunday, warning that — quote — "The food supply chain is breaking" and calling for more federal support.

    Across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work on Downing Street, after needing hospitalization for COVID-19 symptoms earlier this month.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

    We are now beginning to turn the tide. If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger, which I can tell you, from personal experience, it is, then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Europe's worst-hit country, Italy, is also trying to pick itself up. With the number of new cases dropping there, the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced plans for easing lockdowns.

  • Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (through translator):

    On May 18, we plan to reopen the retail sector. The sector serving manufacturing and construction activities will open on May 4. Also, on May 18, museums, exhibitions and libraries, as well as training for team sports, will open.

    June 1 is the date when we would like to open bars, restaurants, hairdressers, all activities related to self-care.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The World Health Organization today said that prudent approach will help to save lives.

  • Michael Ryan:

    What we want to see is countries taking a step-by-step, data-driven approach that allows a country to move steadily towards a new normal, towards a new way of living that allows lives and livelihoods to return, but, at the same time, not doing it so quickly that there's a rebound in cases.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The world's push to reopen, experts suggest, shouldn't be a race, but a delicate dance.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

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