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President Trump Puts Governors in the Driver’s Seat in New Plan for Reopening the Economy

President Donald Trump will announce his plans tonight for reopening the American economy.

The guidelines, called “Opening Up America Again!” will keep restrictions in place in the hardest-hit areas, with less-affected pockets of the country to reopen sooner.

Some social distancing measures are expected to remain in place for the remainder of 2020, federal officials warned. But ultimately, governors will be responsible for determining when to reopen their states, Trump reportedly told the nation’s governors today. The plan will be formally unveiled tonight in a White House news conference.

Trump had previously suggested via Twitter that governors do not have the power to open up their states. Instead, he said, it would be up to his administration to work with those state leaders to decide on whether to reopen schools and nonessential businesses, including retail stores and restaurants.

Under the Constitution, public health and safety is primarily the domain of state and local officials. As coronavirus infection rates appear to be stabilizing, top government officials — including leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis president Neel Kashkari — have all weighed in on when it would be safe to ease the widespread lockdowns that have immobilized the U.S. economy.

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“We are hoping that at the end of the month, we can look around and say, ‘OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on?’ ” Fauci said on Sunday, adding that when such restrictions are eased, “we know that there will be people who will be getting infected. I mean, that is just reality.”

According to analytics firm GlobalData, nearly 4.8 billion square feet of retail space — roughly 55% of total retail space — has been shuttered across the country. That represents more than 258,300 units closed — almost 61% of all units — minus restaurants and service operators such as gyms and spas. These shutdowns have inevitably shifted the U.S. economy, from decimating the workforce through furloughs and endangering already-struggling businesses to forcing retailers to make adjustments to their omnichannel strategies.

In a report earlier this month, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Sam Poser, who covers Nike, Lululemon, Crocs, Steve Madden and a slew of other big names, noted that his firm is assuming that businesses in North America and Europe remain closed through May with “a slow return to normal.”

That would mean that many locations would be dark for two of the three months in the second quarter, adding up to tremendous losses across the board. The retail sector has already furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers, with top execs at footwear purveyors such as Nordstrom, Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods also choosing to temporarily forgo their salaries.

Looking ahead, the third quarter will likely be critical for recovery efforts — but some cash-strapped retailers are likely to shutter locations permanently as liquidity pressures accelerate. According to a March Coresight Research report, there could be more than 15,000 gross store closures in the U.S. this year, up from a record-high 9,548 closures in 2019.

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