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Reopening states: No ‘clear’ federal guidance: Kansas City Mayor

As government officials across the country mull reopening their states, the White House has decided to shelve detailed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on just how states and businesses should transition out of lockdown.

The decision has placed the burden on local officials to decide when and how they will reopen businesses in their states, cities, and local municipalities. 

“We are not getting clear federal guidance,” said Kansas City, MO Mayor Quinton Lucas.  

“[It] has kind of started a free for all, a free for all in the states. And a state like mine has a governor who has eschewed wearing masks by and large in public. And we have almost ‘anything goes’ with a little bit of statement as to maintain social distancing.”

“And in Missouri,” he added, “you can now have a concert of any size.”

Instead, according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the administration has “consulted individually” with states.

“It’s a government — governor-led effort.  It’s a state-led effort, in which the federal government will consult, and we do so each and every day,” she said in a press briefing this week.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 20: Protesters drive past City Hall encouraging Mayor Quinton Lucas to open businesses up, allow people to work, and return lives to normal on April 20, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. The protest was part of a growing national movement against stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The White House put out guidance on reopening states, though it could be described as vague at best. 

In their reopening guidelines, the White House writes that states should have a “downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period,” and  a “downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.”

But even with these guidelines, many states are reopening before seeing a downward trend of COVID-19 cases, or before seeing them for two weeks.

In Georgia, according to their Department of Health, the state didn’t see a downward trajectory of new cases until 2 days before Governor Kemp decided to reopen the state.

In Texas, the number of daily new cases is still continuing to increase. The state decided to reopen on May 1. 

It isn’t clear how badly states will be impacted going forward after relaxing lockdown and stay-at-home orders.

But in order to protect residents, Mayor Lucas says he has implemented additional rules locally.

“Those of us who are mayors have been trying to add on whatever layers we can,” he told Yahoo Finance. “I do appreciate the governor giving us the chance to add some other rules.”

The Mayor’s “10-10-10” rule — where businesses are allowed to reopen with only 10% occupancy (or 10 people) and are required to gather contact information for anyone who stays longer than 10 minutes — was called “Nazi-like” by a conservative lawyer.

According to a new survey from Change Research, Republicans are more likely to favor opening up businesses than Democrats.

This partisanship has also been noted by the Mayor.

“We have real challenges,” Lucas said. “I've had protests in my city hall. And it has become the centerpiece of this kind of more political debate, which I think is incredibly regrettable.”

“It's incredibly contentious. And we would love to have the cover of a federal government that is supporting some of our efforts or state governments. But you know, we're not blessed with that. But we're kind of used to that here in middle America and in our cities.”

“I just think that it's unfortunate,” he added, “because we will probably continue to see these meatpacking plant outbreaks, the prison outbreaks that you're catching in more small towns throughout middle America.”

According to the survey, 85% of Republicans think it is safe to go to the beach or go shopping, compared to just 15% and 22% of Democrats, respectively.

Republicans are also less likely to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, compared to their Democratic counterparts. 

Ninety percent of Democrats surveyed said they wore a face mask in public, compared to 45% of Republicans. And over 95% of Democrats said they were engaging in social distancing, compared to just 67% of Republicans. 

Mayor Lucas says the messaging from President Trump hasn’t been helpful.

“When the president tweeted, ‘liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia, liberate Minnesota’, it changed the whole nature of the conversation around the country,” he said.

“And then we saw very shortly after that the governor of Georgia says everything's going to be open, but with a few limits. And then basically, lots of red state governors and a few blue state — I look at Colorado as one example — have kind of said the same things. And so, you know, it's my view that it has been unfortunate.”

Lucas said these “mixed messages” have made things difficult to keep promoting and enforcing social distancing orders. 

“It's become more difficult. We will keep trying to do it,” he said.

But the mayor told Yahoo Finance that as other states and cities relax their lockdowns, cities like his will only be able to “sustain it so long.”

“My city of Kansas City isn't on an island. And we have all these folks around us that are doing any number of things, going to get their hair done, going to do all types of stuff. And that slowly, it will impact all of us in the city. And frankly, it'll probably impact us politically.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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