WASHINGTON -- A week ago President Donald Trump asked all Americans to stay home for 15 days to slow the spread of the coronavirus. States followed suit, with many governors and public health officials issuing orders to shutter restaurants and bars, restrict how many people could gather and shut down schools.
Now the president appears ready to get businesses back open as the economy freezes up from many people heeding the orders to isolate themselves.
"WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!," the president tweeted just before midnight Sunday.
But the president has limited authority over what states are doing to put the brakes on the coronavirus and to "flatten the curve" of infections. He can't easily roll back emergency orders from states that closed businesses and in some areas ordered people to shelter in place.
Governors and state public health officials get the authority to declare an emergency from their state constitutions.
"These rules, these orders have mostly been issued by governors," said James Nash, spokesman for the National Governors Association. "They and they alone would have the authority to relax those orders."
In an interview with McClatchy News, Nash said actions that restrict gatherings and other binding orders have mostly been at the state level. "That really underscores the leadership by governors of both parties around the country," he said.
Many public health officials think keeping up the isolation period is vital to slowing the spread of the outbreak, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
"The kinds of mitigation issues that are going on right now, the things that we're seeing in this country, this physical separation at the same time as we're preventing an influx of cases coming in, I think that's going to go a long way to preventing us from becoming an Italy," Fauci said Sunday on "Face the Nation."
Italy has had more than 60,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 6,000 deaths as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.