The Three-Phase Guidelines for Reopening States

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American FlagThe Trump administration last week released a set of guidelines on how states and local governments may reopen.

Titled ‘Opening Up America Again,’ the document outlines criteria to help classify which stage a region or state is in. Being a guideline rather than an order, it is not an exact prediction of how local and state economies will restart; with this process left to be decided by state governors rather than the president. As such, the plan omits details and specific requirements that would otherwise be left to the states.

The document notes a set of standards that must be met in order to prove eligible for entering each stage.  Among these are practices being employed currently, like the establishment of contact tracing systems, increased ICU capacities, and the provision of testing sites for those who are symptomatic of covid-19. However, one standard, the adequate supplying of personal protection equipment and critical medical equipment, has proved difficult across the United States as ventilators, masks, and gowns worn by medical professionals are scarce.

If a state or region meets each of the listed criteria then it enters phase one. In this stage, services, individuals, and employers are suggested to act in their most limited capacity. Vulnerable individuals are asked to continue to shelter in place, and those who live with vulnerable individuals are asked to be mindful of going to work; gatherings of more than 10 people where strict physical distancing is not possible are to be avoided; non-essential travel is to be limited; telework is encouraged; staff common areas are to close; schools and organized youth activities are to be cancelled; large venues can open under strict physical distancing protocols, just as gyms can; and bars are to remain closed.

If the gating criteria are met a second time, the beginning of phase two is signaled. Here many of the guidelines stay the same, except the physical distancing standards are relaxed for large venues, schools may reopen, gatherings of up to 50 people are deemed safe so long as physical distancing is observed, non-essential travel can resume, and bars “may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy.”

And finally, if a state or region shows signs of no rebound of covid-19 and satisfy the gating criteria a third time, they enter the final phase. Vulnerable individuals may resume public interactions while practicing physical distancing; employers can reopen common areas; visits to senior living facilities and hospitals can resume; and large venues, bars, and gyms may operate under less restrictive protocols.

Again, the implementation of these guidelines remains an uncertainty. With states and governors being split over their reaction to the novel coronavirus as well as the level to which they are affected by the pandemic, it is unclear how
many, if any, will adhere to ‘Opening Up America Again.’

Last modified: April 22, 2020
Brendan Garrett

Category: Economy


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