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Timeline: Government's evolving guidance on when Americans can return to work

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Posted at 8:42 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 23:42:05-04

Americans are in the midst of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but a key question on many politicians' and residents' minds is when the economy is going to open up again.

In addition to the country's massive death toll, the economy is in shambles and nearly 17 million Americans are out of work. But reopening is a tricky question, one that's been hotly debated by economists, politicians and health experts. Reopening too soon risks endangering even more American lives. Holding off too long could further strain beleaguered businesses and cash-strapped workers.

April 14: Trump announces industry groups advising him on country's reopening

President Donald Trump announces an expansive list of American businesses and industry executives to advise him on reopening parts of the country, saying some areas could open ahead of May 1, when the current White House social distancing guidelines are set to expire.

Trump also says the federal government will oversee governors' plans to implement reopenings in their individual states.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert and a prominent member of Trump's coronavirus task force, had previously cautioned that a May 1 reopening might be "a bit overly optimistic" for some parts of the country without widespread testing and contact tracing in place.

Newsom

April 13: Governors band together to coordinate reopening

Governors from the Northeast -- including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island -- announce that they'll coordinate reopening schools and businesses in the region.

California, Oregon and Washington's governors form a similar coalition to decide when they'll collectively lift stay-at-home orders on the West Coast.

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference, April 7, 2020, in Albany, New York.New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference, April 7, 2020, in Albany, New York.Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images, FILEThe coalitions do not appear to be coordinated with the federal government, but Trump insists he has "total authority" as president to set the states' terms for reopening.

April 10: Fauci says antibody testing is days away

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the country is days away from having a large number of antibody tests available. Such tests could help determine which Americans have been exposed to the virus, including asymptomatic individuals.

Dr. Fauci hopes handshakes are a thing of the past
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence listens. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House, in Washington, April 10, 2020.Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House, in Washington, April 10, 2020.Kevin Dietsch/POOL/EPA via ShutterstockStill, Fauci stresses, the virus will be the ultimate decider of when to reopen the country.

April 8, 2020: Symptom-free essential workers exposed to COVID-19 can return to work: CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield announces new guidelines that would allow "essential workers" to return to their jobs sooner at a White House coronavirus task force briefing, after the president emphasized for weeks that the U.S. wasn't built to be shut down.