Washington: As many as 35 of the 50 American states affected by the coronavirus pandemic have unveiled formal reopening plans, as President Donald Trump expressed confidence that "much better days" are ahead for the country that has been hit hard by the "invisible enemy".
By Wednesday, 61,000 Americans have lost their lives due to the coronavirus and over 10 lakh people have tested positive, the highest for any country in the world.
"We mourn, and I have to say this so strongly we mourn every life tragically lost to the invisible enemy. And we are heartened that the worst of the pain and suffering is going to be behind us," Trump said, during a White House roundtable on Wednesday with industry executives on "Opening Up America Again".
Most industries and business activities remain shut and over 95 per cent of the country's 330 million population have been under stay-at-home orders. Over 26 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits and the number is expected to go up to more than 30 million.
The US economy has come to a standstill. It grew by negative 4.8 per cent in the first quarter. On Wednesday, Trump exuded confidence that economy would be back on track by the fourth quarter.
"We think we really have crossed a big boundary, and much better days are ahead, and I often say I see the light at the end of the tunnel very strongly," Trump said.
"We are seeing tremendous pent-up demand, and it's a beautiful thing to see, so it's wonderful to have America industry leaders, and that is what you are, true leaders to the White House," he told the industry leaders.
"This demand is going to be incredible. I think next year is going to be an incredible year for our economy. I think the fourth quarter is going to be really, really good," he added.
Thanks to the devotion of the American people, the number of new cases continues to decline, the United States has now conducted nearly six million tests, far more than any other nation, the President said.
"And so much has been learned about what we are fighting, and if it does rear up a little bit in the fall or even a lot, we will be able to put it out. We will put out the embers," he added.
Vice President Mike Pence said he is encouraged by the progress, and even the hotspots around the country cases are levelling off and in some areas going down.
"Hospitalisations are declining even in the greater New York City area." "That is a testament to the American people to the way the American people now nearly 45 days ago embraced the guidelines to slow the spread. And as we come to the end of this mitigation period, states across the country have all embraced those same mitigation and social distancing efforts," he said.
"The American people have put them into practice. We have saved lives, we have protected the vulnerable, we have reserved our healthcare system, and we are well on our way to healing our land," he added.
It was on April 16 that Trump laid out a plan for opening up America again.
"And we sit here today. I am informed that 35 states have already released formal opening plans many of which are consulting directly with our team here in the administration and we are going to continue to work with all of them," Pence said.
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has announced a plan that would allow restaurants, movie theatres and malls to begin readmitting customers at a quarter capacity as long as they enforce social distancing guidelines.
But cases in the state have not been steadily decreasing over the past 14 days, according to figures from the state's Department of State Health Services.
Nevertheless, Trump congratulated Abbott on Twitter this week, writing he was doing a "great job" in beginning his state's phased reopening.
The president has also encouraged Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on his efforts to reopen portions of his state, even as case counts there have increased on certain days, US media reports said.