WASHINGTON-- This week will see many U.S. states re-open their economies after the historic COVID-19 lockdown has ravaged the U.S. economy and caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. However, it remains unknown whether this will impact U.S. President Donald Trump's re-election efforts.
Many states this week are seeing a slow but sure re-opening of their economies, after the coronavirus has killed nearly 56,000 people nationwide and infected more than 987,000.
The U.S. states of Colorado, Minnesota and Montana plan to relax restrictions advising Americans to stay home. Iowa will resume elective surgeries and farmers' markets by Monday.
Tennessee restaurants and retail stores will be permitted to operate at 50-percent capacity by Wednesday. Hawaii has re-opened beaches for exercise and fishing, although sunbathing will not be permitted. Texas on Friday already allowed stores to sell merchandise curbside.
Georgia on Friday allowed some businesses to open in which people are packed close together -- such as hair salons, gyms and barber shops -- following certain guidelines. Oklahoma has opened hair salons, spas and pet groomers.
New York City, the hardest-hit city, is taking measures to reopen at a certain point.
In Colorado, the governor said guidelines advising people to stay at home will expire by Sunday, but emphasized that people should stay at home as much as possible.
Michigan, whose governor has come under fire for what critics say are unnecessary and badly-thought-out restrictions, is now allowing landscaping businesses, as well as plant nurseries and bicycle repair shops to open.
"The success of the reopening strategy depends a lot on its health consequences. If states reopen and there is no major spike in cases, that will be a win for that area. But if there is a spike upwards in the number of cases and the fatality rate, that will be very problematic for Trump. It will look like he traded lives for the reopening," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
It is crucial for Trump to hold onto the white working class, which comprises his main base of support but is disproportionately impacted by the lockdown because most in that group cannot work from home.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua that if blue collar whites think Trump is making things worse, they may move away from him in large enough numbers to complicate his re-election strategy.
Clay Ramsay, a senior research associate at the Center for International and Security Studies at University of Maryland, said Trump may yet hold onto his key supporters, as the president has used his daily briefings to distance himself from health officials who caution against re-opening too soon.
"So those who are disaffected with the stay-at-home policies won't blame the president for them," Ramsay said.
The state of the economy come November will also be a major issue that will impact the elections.
Perhaps working in Trump's favor is evidence from past pandemics that areas that took earlier, more stringent measures saw a stronger recovery than elsewhere. In an election that experts said will be determined by the electoral college rather than the national vote, that dynamic will be important.
It remains unknown whether the United States will see a V-shape recovery or a longer recession that some economists are now predicting. Many Americans, climbing the walls under stay-at-home guidelines, are champing at the bit to go out. Many observers predict a surge in customers at restaurants, hair salons and shopping malls, once they reopen.
But at the same time, many states are espousing a slow return to normalcy, which means requiring restaurants and other businesses to operate at a 50-percent capacity, in a bid to prevent new hot spots from popping up.
West said a bad economy come November will be hard for Trump to deal with, as the surging economy has been the hallmark of his re-election strategy.