On Thursday, the White House released a three-phase plan to reopen America during the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, announced and ran through the plan.
“This is a gradual process,” Trump said. He explained that federal guidelines will allow governors to take a “tailored approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states.” Trump said some of the governors told him their states have already crossed the threshold to start reopening.
Birx ran through the phases of the plan (which you can read here).
1. State or regional gating criteria
Before any sort of reopening can occur, states and regions must satisfy three broad conditions. They must show a downward 14-day trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and coronavirus-like syndromic cases. They must show a downward trajectory of documented cases of the coronavirus within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14-day period. Hospitals must treat all patients without requiring crisis care, and they must have a robust testing program for at-risk health care workers, including emergency antibody testing.
States must also meet preparedness responsibilities like establishing testing and contact tracing, preparing their health care systems for a potential surge in ICU capacity and the need for medical equipment, and plans to protect the health and safety of workers, those in senior care facilities, users of mass transit, and a few other segments of the population.
In every phase, individuals are advised to practice good hygiene and to stay home if they are sick. Employers are advised to use social distancing, to check employees’ temperatures, and to maintain proper sanitation.
2. Phase 1
During the first phase of reopening, vulnerable individuals should still shelter in place. While in public, other individuals should still maximize physical distance and avoid large gatherings and non-essential travel.
Employers should issue special accommodations for vulnerable populations, encourage telework when possible, return to work in phases, and minimize non-essential travel.
Schools would remain closed during this phase, while visits to hospitals and senior living facilities would still be prohibited. Large venues may reopen with 6-feet distancing. Gyms can reopen with strict sanitation procedures. Elective surgeries should resume but on an out-patient basis only.
3. Phase 2
After a second 14-day period of decline, a second phase begins. During this phase, vulnerable individuals should still shelter in place and others should still maximize physical distance. Social gatherings may increase from 10 people maximum to 50 people maximum, and non-essential travel can resume.
Employers should still encourage teleworking and close common areas, but non-essential travel can resume. They should maintain special accommodations for vulnerable workers.
Schools, daycares, and camps can reopen during the second phase, while visits to senior living facilities and hospitals would still be prohibited. Elective surgeries can resume on an in-patient basis as well as an out-patient one. Bars may reopen with diminished standing room capacity.
4. Phase 3
After a third 14-day period of decline, states and regions should mostly return to normal. Vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions while social distancing and minimizing crowds. Employers can resume unrestricted staffing.
During this final phase, visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can finally resume, and bars may operate with increased standing room capacity. Large venues can operate with limited physical distancing.
In each state and region of the country, these phases will look different. The White House guidelines set a basic path forward, not a rigid process for every state and region. These guidelines are not meant to be comprehensive, and the Trump administration is likely to take different steps to prepare America for future pandemics. While Trump consulted with the Heritage Foundation for the guidance, he did not include all five aspects of the Heritage Foundation’s coronavirus commission’s report. However, it is likely he will incorporate other aspects of that report in other plans moving forward.