Trump Claims 29 States May Reopen in 'Next Few Days,' Declines to List Which Are Ready

President Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that as many as 29 states could begin to lift the social distancing measures imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 "relatively soon" under new guidelines for restarting the now-stalled American economy.

Trump took to the White House briefing room to unveil the guidelines along members of the Vice President Mike Pence-led White House Coronavirus Task Force roughly one month after his administration first unveiled a set of guidelines to "slow the spread" of SARS-CoV-2.

The new guidelines, which the White House said were intended to begin "opening up America again," lay out three separate phases in which the mitigation strategies imposed over the last month can be relaxed depending on a number of vague "gating criteria," but leave most responsibility—and potential for blame if anything goes awry—on individual state governors.

Trump, citing no evidence, told reporters that more than half of the 50 states in the U.S. would soon be ready to begin the process.

"I think 29 states are in that ballgame not open enough for opening, but I think they'll be able to open relatively soon," Trump said.

But when pressed repeatedly on which states were among the 29 he listed, the president balked at offering up any names, instead choosing to leave the question of when—or if—to announce their state's readiness to individual governors.

"I'd rather that say that, but you'll be seeing it very soon. I mean—I'd rather have the governor be able to Governors be able to announce, and they're very proud of it," he said.

Trump briefing 4-16-20
US President Donald Trump flanked by US Vice President Mike Pence, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci (R) and Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan/Getty

Trump's decision to allow state governors to shoulder the burden of determining whether states can begin lifting social distancing measures marked a significant departure from what he had claimed over the past several days.

On Monday, Trump claimed that as president, he had "total authority" to order governors to begin the process of reopening their economies.

"The President of the United States calls the shots," he declared, adding later that governors of the 50 states "can't do anything without the approval of the President of the United States."

While Trump, who has styled himself a "wartime president" during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, claimed that the unveiling of the new White House guidelines marked a new phase in what he calls a "war" against an "invisible enemy," most reputable medical experts maintain that the only way to restart the nation's economy is by ensuring the widespread availability of COVID-19 testing.

But under Trump, the U.S. has failed to conduct enough per capita testing to keep pace with a number of countries with far fewer resources.

As of Friday, data compiled by showed the U.S. lagging behind Germany, Australia, Denmark and South Korea in terms of the number of tests performed per 1,000 residents. And while Trump on Thursday bragged that the U.S. had tested 3.3 million people for COVID-19, that number represents just approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population.