President Donald Trump announced a plan to reopen the U.S. state by state called ‘Opening Up America Again’ on Thursday.
Activation of the three-phase plan is in response to the decrease in hospital visits for Influenza-like illnesses within a 15 week period.
Coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said data-driven conditions in each state should satisfy case count criteria before proceeding to a phased opening. This criteria includes a downward trajectory of influenza-like illness and documented COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period.
Once these gating criteria, along with a decrease in testing despite adequate resources, are met, states can move to the first phase. A timeline for each phase is dependent on each state.
Phase one of the plan allows a slow return to work, but remote work is encouraged when possible, Birx said.
Nonessential travel should be minimized, and physical distance should be maximized when in public. Groups larger than 10 people should be avoided.
Schools currently closed should remain closed, Birx said. Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should be prohibited.
Large venues which include sit down dining can operate under strict physical distancing protocols. Gyms can reopen as long as strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols are followed.
Once a state has passed another 14-day period of low influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 case counts, they may move to phase two, Birx said.
Phase two allows the reopening of schools, daycares and camps. Nonessential travel can also resume. Social settings of more than 50 people should be avoided.
Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter-in-place. Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should remain prohibited.
Remote work is still encouraged during this time, and employers should close common areas for those not working remotely.
In phase three, vulnerable individuals can resume interactions but should practice physical distancing.
Low-risk populations should minimize time spent in crowded environments.
In phase three, employers can resume unrestricted staffing of worksites.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the design of the phase process was to satisfy gating criteria before moving to the next phase. This allows for multiple safety checkpoints.
Fauci said it is conceivable that once states get past phase three, events with large crowds, such as sporting events and concerts, can resume.
Trump said that states that have already met the gating criteria can start on phase one as soon as Friday.