“Opening Up America Again”: The White House’s Plan To Return To Normal

Now that stay-at-home orders have been in effect for over a month in some parts of the country, many people are asking if and when things will return to normal.  Will sports arenas or movie theaters reopen?  When can I go back to work?  When will I be allowed to visit my relative in the hospital again?  How will they make sure there isn’t another outbreak?

These are a few of the questions the White House seeks to answer with their new plan, “Opening Up America Again”.  It’s a three-phased plan that involves slowly bringing the country back to normal functioning without the risk of an outbreak.  Here’s a comprehensive guide to the White House’s new plan:

State/Regional Gating Criteria

Before the country starts the three phases of opening, each state or reason should satisfy a few criteria.  When it comes to symptoms of COVID-19, both influenza-like illnesses and covid-like syndromic cases should decrease in a 14-day period.  With regard to cases of COVID-19, the amount of documented COVID-19 cases and the percentage of positive tests out of total tests should also go down in a 14-day period. 

And as for the hospitals, all patients should be treated without crisis care and there should be a rigorous testing program for at-risk healthcare workers that includes antibody testing.  Once all these criteria have been satisfied, states will be ready to begin the phased approach to reopen.

Core State Preparedness Responsibilities

There are a few preparations each state will need to make in order to reopen.  A state needs to be able to set up quick and safe screening and testing sites that can test anyone with covid-like symptoms or trace the contacts of people who test positive.  There also need to be surveillance sites that can screen anyone who is asymptomatic.  The healthcare system needs to have the capacity to supply Personal Protective equipment and other critical medical equipment in case of a surge. They also need to be able to surge their ICU capacity if necessary. 

Finally, plans should be put in place to protect the health and safety of critical workers, people living and working in high-risk facilities, and people who use mass transit.  These plans should involve advising citizens about social distancing and face covering protocols.  The state should monitor conditions so that if any rebounds or outbreaks happen, the state can limit the disease from having another outbreak by restarting or going back one phase.

Three Phased Approach

The White House has come up with a phased approach based on current data that reduces the risk of resurgence and protects the vulnerable.  This approach can be implemented by state or by county depending on the decision of the governor.

Guidelines For Phases

There are a few guidelines that should be followed throughout all phases.  Individuals should continue to practice good hygiene including hand washing, using face coverings, and avoiding touching your face.  Anyone sick should stay home. 

Employers need to develop policies to implement things such as social distancing, temperature checks, and sanitation.  They should also monitor their workforce for covid-like symptoms and utilize testing, isolation, and contact tracing in case one of their employees tests positive.

Phase One

The first phase is for states and regions that satisfy the gating criteria.  The phase is split up for individuals, employers, and special types of employers.  All vulnerable individuals need to keep sheltering in place.  This includes the elderly and anyone with a serious underlying health condition.  Everyone should maintain social distancing when in public and avoid gatherings of more than ten.  Non-essential travel should be minimized.

Employers should keep encouraging telework and have people come back to work in phases.  Common areas should be closed, and non-essential work travel should be minimized.  Special accommodations should be made for anyone vulnerable to the virus. 

Schools and other youth activities should remain closed, and visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should not be allowed.  Large venues can still function but must abide by strict social distancing protocols.  Elective surgeries can begin again, gyms can reopen (if they follow social distancing and sanitation protocols), but bars should stay closed.

Phase Two

The second phase is for states and regions that haven’t had a rebound and continue to satisfy the gating criteria.  All vulnerable individuals still need to shelter in place, and social distancing needs to continue.  However, non-essential travel can begin again.

Employers should still encourage telework whenever possible and keep the common areas closed, but they can also resume non-essential travel.  The special accommodations for the vulnerable should still be strongly considered.

Schools and other youth activities can come back, but visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should not.  Large venues can loosen social distancing protocols slightly, and bars can reopen with lessened standing-room capacity.

Phase Three

The third phase is for states and regions that still haven’t had a rebound and continue to satisfy the gating criteria.  Vulnerable individuals can return to public as long as they practice social distancing.  Those at low-risk shouldn’t spend too much time in crowded places.  Employers can release restrictions on their worksites.

Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals can resume with strict hygienic protocols.  Large venues should still use some limited social distancing protocols, and gyms only have to abide by standard sanitation protocols.  Bars can increase their standing room occupancy. It’s unknown exactly when this pandemic will end, but scientists and politicians alike are working hard to slow the spread of this virus so that we can return to normal as soon as possible.  They’re also trying to develop the safest way to reopen the country without costing American lives at the expense of the economy.  The White House has come up with their plan of proposed criteria for reopening the country.  This plan should give us an idea of what to look out for when it’s safe to begin to return to normal life.

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