Story at a glance
- The White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have set out guidelines for reopening.
- Most states have not met all the criteria, but some have reopened regardless.
- The guidelines recommend a phased approach to reopening, which many states have followed.
The White House has published a set of criteria for states to meet before beginning a phased reopening, as well as guidelines for each phase, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These were pared back from an earlier proposal shelved by the Trump administration for being too prescriptive.
What are the criteria for states to reopen?
There are five major criteria states must satisfy concerning COVID-19 symptoms, cases and hospital resources. First, the state must record both a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a two-week period. Second, the state must also record a downward trajectory of documented cases or positive tests as a percent of total tests within a two-week period. Finally, hospitals must be able to treat all patients without crisis care and have a "robust" testing program, including antibody testing, in place for at-risk health care workers.
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What happens once states meet that criteria?
States have been instructed to implement a phased reopening based on available data that can be applied either on a statewide or county level.
During phase one, individuals are asked to continue sheltering in place, practicing social distancing, limiting gatherings to less than 10 people and minimizing nonessential travel.
During phase two, individuals can resume nonessential travel but should still practice social distancing in public. Employers are asked to allow telework where possible, especially for vulnerable employees, and close common areas in offices. Schools, daycares and bars can reopen, although with some restrictions.
During phase three, high-risk individuals are asked to continue practicing preventative measures while low-risk people are asked only to minimize time in crowds.
Which states have met that criteria?
Only three states have met all the criteria for reopening, according to a ProPublica analysis of available data: Connecticut, Illinois and New York. Connecticut’s stay-at-home order expired on May 20 and the state has transitioned into a phased reopening. Illinois’ stay-at-home order will expire May 30, at which point much of the state will begin reopening, although Chicago will reopen on its own timeline. New York, a major epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, has begun to reopen by region, with the stay-at-home order expiring on May 28. Employers are asked to do the same, although gyms and large venues can open under some restrictions.
A number of other states are close to meeting all criteria for reopening. Delaware has met all criteria except the downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses over a two-week period, because hospital visits for flu-like illness have remained steady at zero percent, according to the ProPublica analysis. Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Dakota are all in similar situations, with hospital visits for flu-like illnesses remaining steady under 5 percent.
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