LOUISVILLE, Ky. — We’re several weeks into a life filled with closed businesses and strict social distancing guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s one question on many of our minds: “When will things go back to normal?”
President Trump gave at least a partial answer to that question on Thursday by announcing that he has a plan to reopen the economy and has shared that plan with U.S. governors.
The president stressed that this will be a “gradual process” and the guidelines will be aimed at lessening restrictions in areas where the coronavirus isn’t as prevalent, while still managing the virus in harder-hit locations. Some federal officials have said that some social distancing measures may need to stay in place until the end of the year.
States will follow the guidelines at their own pace, but there are certain criteria each state will have to meet before it can begin the process.
The criteria include:
- A downward trajectory of coronavirus-like symptoms and positive tests within a two-week period
- Hospitals with the ability to treat all patients without “crisis care"
- A testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers
- Antibody testing available
Once a state has met the criteria, it can begin the first phase of reopening its economy.
- Strict social distancing for people in public
- No gatherings with 10 or more people
- Nonessential travel is discouraged
- Employers to telework where possible, return in phases
If there is not a spike in cases during Phase 1, governors can start the second phase.
- Non-essential travel for employers can resume
- Schools can and organized youth activity can resume
- Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with proper social distancing measures in place
- Churches can reopen with social distancing
- Elective surgeries can resume
If there are still no spikes in cases, they can move into the third phase.
- Return to normalcy for most Americans
- Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with limited social distancing and proper sanitation
- Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume, but visitors and patients must be vigilant with hygiene
Since the implementation of the phases is dependent on the rate of new coronavirus cases in each state, the process of returning to a new “normal” could take a month for some and much longer for others.
The federal guidelines also include recommendations for businesses that plan to reopen, including taking the temperature of employees and patrons, rapid COVID-19 testing and disinfection efforts in workplaces.