Whitehouse plans to re-open country in three phases

The White House just released the guidance that will determine how society opens back up after the coronavirus, and the plan is to open society up in three different stages.

Below is a breakdown of the three different stages and what you can expect in a post coronavirus world. It’s worth noting that they did NOT make any timeline projections.

First, before getting to the three stages, states or regions must meet “gating” criteria.

  • There must be a downward trajectory of influenza like illnesses reported within a 14 day period and a downward trajectory of coronavirus like cases reported in a 14 day period.
  • There must be a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14 day period and a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests).
  • Also, hospitals must treat all patients without crisis care and have a robust testing program in place for at risk healthcare workers which includes antibody testing.

 I think the biggest issue for getting past this stage is going to be implementing robust testing, as states will need to have the “Ability to quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals and trace contacts of COVID+ results.”

Testing and tracing has been a major issue so this is not exactly a quick fix.

Once a state gets those things in order, they can move to phase one. Here are the different phases and what to expect.

Phase 1

Phase 1 is for states and regions that satisfy the gating criteria above.

Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place. (This includes people like the elderly and also those with compromised immune systems.) Precautions should also be taken to isolate vulnerable residents. 

When in public, all individuals should maximize physical distance from others.

This includes places like parks, outdoor recreation areas, and shopping areas. So national parks will be allowed to be open but you will need to keep your distance from others.

Social settings of more than 10 people (where appropriate distancing may not be practical) should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.

Nonessential travel should be minimized. So there will no longer be a ban on non-essential travel, it will just need to be toned down.

What exactly that will mean will be interesting to see. How do you sufficiently minimize something like that and how do you draw that line?

As for employers, remote working should be continued where possible and certain areas like common areas where personnel like to congregate and interact should enforce social distancing.

Nonessential travel should be minimized for businesses as well and they should consider special accommodations for employees with at risk factors.

During phase 1, certain types of facilities should remain closed like schools and daycares. Also visits to senior living facilities should be prohibited. Luckily, the summer is right around the corner so states have several months to get things under control before the next school year begins.

Surprisingly, large venues like movie theaters, sporting venues and places of worship, can operate but must operate “under strict to physical distancing protocols.” 

Also, while gyms can open, bars should remain closed.

Phase one sounds like it could be an interesting time because sports venues may be able to open, perhaps with some type of limited capacity that ensures social distancing.

I’m not sure if that could actually work but I think social distancing could be implemented in some places like movie theaters and restaurants without too much hassle. And honestly, it will probably be a nicer experience since you will not be able to elbow with strangers.

Phase 2

Phase two will be for states and regions that have no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria a second time.

Physical distancing should remain when individuals are in public places but the social gathering rules will apply only to gatherings of more than 50 people instead of 10.

Significantly, during this stage non-essential travel may resume. This is huge news for those in the travel space. So for those of you planning on future trips, the biggest factor you want to consider is if a rebound is on the horizon or not. If it is not, then your travels can probably resume at that point.

Although this makes me wonder how that will work — will two destinations need to be in the same phase for travel to resume or are we just talking about one-way flights here?

The same restrictions will be in place for employers to encourage remote work and to enforce social distancing in common areas but only to a moderate extent.

Also, non-essential travel can resume and special accommodations should be strongly considered for at risk employees.

Schools and youth activities like daycare can reopen in this phase.

Visits to senior care facilities should still be prohibited and large venues can operate under “moderate” physical distancing protocols.

I’m very curious about what moderate physical distancing will look like in large venues.

Is it going to be a matter of going from two empty seats between people to one? Will it mean more space between visitors at concession stand lines? Again, it’s going to be interesting to see how these definitions are interpreted.

Gyms will remain open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols and bars may operate with diminished standing room occupancy.

Phase 3

Phase 3 will be for states and regions with no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria for a third time.

In this stage, vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions but should practice physical distancing and minimize exposure to social settings where distancing is not practical. Low risk populations should also consider minimizing the time spent in crowded environments.

(It sounds like phase 3 is basically the reopening of society while waiting for the vaccine.)

These stages sound very interesting and I think rolling out stay just like this is a good idea. But the devil is truly in the details with something like this.

The biggest surprise to me is that large venues can operate in phase 1 and it will be very interesting to see how that plays out.

Also, I want to know at what point do officials determine that there has been no rebound and open up nonessential travel? I wonder if that threshold will be clearly defined.  

You can read the guidelines here