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US health officials ready new guidelines as virus restrictions ease

The guidelines include suggestions like closing break rooms at offices, using disposable menus in restaurants and having students eat lunch in their classrooms.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is reviewing proposed new guidelines for how restaurants, schools, churches and businesses can safely reopen as states look to gradually lift their coronavirus restrictions.

The draft guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been sent to Washington but still could be revised before being released to the public. The recommendations were obtained from a federal official who was not authorized to release them publicly.

The guidelines include suggestions such as closing break rooms at offices, using disposable menus in restaurants and having students eat lunch in their classrooms.

The CDC put together so-called “decision trees” for at least seven types of organizations: schools, camps, childcare centers, religious facilities, mass transit systems, workplaces, and bars/restaurants.

White House officials previously released a three-phase reopening plan for the nation that mentioned schools and other organizations that come back on line at different points. But it hadn't previously offered more specific how-to guidelines for each kind of entity with specific steps they can take.

RELATED: President Trump unveils 'Guidelines for opening up America again'

The new guidance still amounts to little more than advice. State and local officials will be the ones to adopt and enforce them. Some state and local governments have already put rules in places for businesses that are operating. For example, Michigan requires businesses to limit how many customers can be in a store at one time.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said that each business that wants to reopen will have to submit a plan to the state on how to do that.

The new guidance could offer some unified federal guidance that local officials can lean on, said Lindsay Wiley, an American University public health law expert.

"Federal guidance provides cover to the states for those regulations if they're challenged in the courts," she said. “It allows the state to say ‘well the CDC said to do it this way,’ and the judge then is very happy to say 'well yes you consulted CDC and that’s the appropriate body,' and then uphold the restrictions and say they're appropriately evidence based."

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Credit: AP
FiLE - In this March 26, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)