The Trump administration is reviewing new proposed guidelines for how states can gradually reopen businesses, schools and churches, while more state governors signaled their plans to move forward with easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
U.S. officials say the guidelines, drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, give detailed recommendations for restarting activities in various settings.
U.S. media outlets that have seen the proposed guidelines reported Monday that they include closing break rooms at offices, using disposable menus in restaurants and suspending choirs during religious services. Officials say changes to the guidelines can still take place.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said his state will begin a slow reopening process on Friday with restaurants, stores and movie theaters allowed to operate with up to 25% of their customer capacity.
In Missouri, Governor Mike Parson said as long as businesses and those at social events continue practicing social distancing methods, they will be allowed to reopen next week. Unlike some other states, the loosening of stay-at-home measures will include allowing people to go to gyms, hair salons, churches and sporting events.
Monday brought more limited resumption of businesses in Minnesota, Colorado, Mississippi, Montana and Tennessee. They joined Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina in the push to put people back to work and allow residents to get back to some semblance of their pre-coronavirus lives.
Health experts are warning against reopening too early, and many state governors have said measures will be in put in place to protect the public’s safety.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Monday he would extend his state’s stay-at-home orders through May 15 because some areas have not yet shown enough progress in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Attorney General William Barr on Monday threatened legal action against restrictions imposed by state and local authorities that undercut religious freedom and other constitutional rights.
In a memo released Monday, Barr directed the Justice Department’s top civil rights official and federal prosecutors around the country to be “on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”
“If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court,” Barr wrote.
The memo reflects Barr’s growing impatience with stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures implemented by state governors since early March in a bid to stem the tide of the coronavirus. Opposition to the restrictions led to rallies in several state capitals last week.
In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, Barr said some of the social distancing measures enforced by state governors were “draconian.”
The Justice Department later filed a “statement of interest” in support of a church suing the city of Greenville, Mississippi, over its ban on drive-in services.
Masood Farivar contributed to this report.