An effective clip, albeit something that would have been much more useful coming from Trump. Rubio has something to say to both sides here. To the “we’re not ready” camp: We can’t stay locked down for much longer. The unemployment numbers are gruesome. Yes, more people will die once we reopen, but that’s a price we’ll have to bear. Our goal should be to minimize the number of deaths after we restart economic activity.

To the “reopen now” camp: We’re not going back to normal or anything remotely like normal. And we need to plan prudently to reduce the risk of mass infection before mass commerce resumes. That means testing and isolating the sick, tracing their contacts, and making sure local hospitals can handle the uptick in patients.

Watch, then read on.

I don’t think the two camps are nearly as far apart on timing as it sometimes seems. I’m in camp one, but I’m under no illusions that the lockdown timeline might extend into fall. Realistically we’re arguing about reopening on May 1 or something like June 1. The real dispute between the two camps has to do with preparations. Apologies if I’m being unfair to the “reopen now” camp, but my sense of their position is that we should let low-impact areas reopen on May 1 regardless of whether anything has changed on the ground. More testing, more contact tracing, more PPE for doctors? Nice to have, but optional. To the “we’re not ready” camp, those things are emphatically not optional. The key question for federal and state government right now should be: What are you doing to put those preparations in place? Where do we stand on testing and contact tracing? Is this a priority for Trump in any meaningful way, or does he expect everyone to go back to work and things will return to normal by magic?

Because if he’s not insisting on preparations, then he’ll need to explain what the point was of locking down in the first place. If we slowed down the virus with no plan to keep it from returning to epidemic speed once the country reopens then we tanked our economy for no reason whatsoever.

FEMA and the CDC have put together a draft of guidelines for the states for gradually reopening after May 1, although of course “[t]he president has not committed to following the guidelines delineated in the draft.” Key points:

The document says reopening communities in this phased approach “will entail a significant risk of resurgence of the virus.” Any reopening must meet four conditions:

* Incidence of infection is “genuinely low.”
* A “well functioning” monitoring system capable of “promptly detecting any increase in incidence” of infection.
* A public health system that is “reacting robustly” to all cases of covid-19 and has surge capacity to react to an increase in cases.
* A health system that has enough inpatient beds and staffing to rapidly scale up and deal with a surge in cases.

We can get to that first condition quickly enough, and have already reached it in many communities. The other three seem like a crapshoot, especially before May 1. (Rural areas, where the infection rate is low, may be particularly at risk of missing the other three benchmarks.) FEMA and the CDC agree, in fact, which is why they expect the period from May 1 though May 15 to “involve ramping up manufacturing of testing kits and personal protective equipment and increasing emergency funding,” an ambitious timetable for a federal government that’s responded slowly to the challenge so far. The guidelines also call for the CDC to develop a small corps that can support state and local governments with contact tracing, but one estimate is that no fewer than 100,000 workers nationwide will be needed for an effective effort. Is that happening before May 15? That’s exactly one month from today.

Again, it’s unclear if any of this is on the president’s radar. He seems to be under the impression that the worst is behind us at this point no matter what we do going forward. His aides are not, though, and so they’re taking precautions — political precautions, to set up some scapegoats for him just in case the virus comes roaring back because he pressed to reopen the country too soon.

Rather, the debate this week has been over how to implement the return, what data could be used to justify the decision, and how to build public support for it to provide the president maximum political cover, according to one senior administration official involved in the discussions and a second person who has been briefed on them.

Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly, according to two former administration officials familiar with the efforts.

That smells like Trump’s own staff suspects he’s moving too quickly in demanding to reopen on May but they’re resigned to the fact that he won’t be talked out of it, so they’re on to a Plan B in which he can at least hide in a crowd when the inevitable disaster unfolds. Quality leadership.

Every reporter at a White House briefing should stop asking him about the date we’ll reopen and start asking him about progress on preparations. I realize he won’t have anything to say more meaningful than “We have the greatest testing in the world, really fabulous,” but highlighting the need for preparations will at least focus public attention on it. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.