After more than a month of gradual closures and stay-at-home orders issued nationwide in an effort to battle COVID-19, a plan to reopen America is being drafted.
Documents obtained by The Washington Post lay out a plan that could slowly roll out by May. The document, written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is called “The Framework for Reopening America.”
According to the document, officials say the current level of mitigation isn’t sustainable in the long term. They’re looking at a three-phase plan, which would be implemented in the least hard-hit areas first. This attempt to return to a semblance of normalcy is an effort to stave off major economic damage. On March 22, President Trump tweeted, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision on which way we want to go!”
At Tuesday’s White House briefing, Trump made several allusions to a plan to lift some of the restrictions in place to combat the virus, especially in states where the spread of COVID-19 is mild. According to the Washington Post, “he said roughly 20 states have avoided the crippling outbreaks that have affected others, and he hinted that some could begin restarting their economies even before May 1.”
The document says, “Lifting stay-at-home orders carefully, on a community by community basis, only when ready, will help extend the gains made from this time of collective social distancing.”
You can read the document here.
The Plan Says the First Thing to Open Would Be Schools & Child Care Centers
While the plan indicates the reopening would roll out in phases and would be different in each community, it says, “The first priority is to reopen community settings where children are cared for, including K-12 schools, daycares, and locally attended summer camps, to allow the workforce to return to work.”
According to Education Week, “23 states and three U.S. territories have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year.” They say school closures have impacted at least 124,000 schools in the nation and affected at least 55.1 million students.
The CDC reported on April 2, while “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group. Social distancing and everyday preventive behaviors remain important for all age groups as patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission.”
Still, child care is essential to millions of working parents, which is why the drafters of the plan say reopening daycares and summer camps will be vital to keeping the economy afloat.
The Document Says They Know There Is a Big Risk of the Virus Getting Worse With Relaxing the Rules
The writers of the draft acknowledge “that the reopening will entail a significant risk of a resurgence of the virus.” That’s why they say its essential to start where infection rates are low and where they have a “well-functioning” surveillance system, i.e. testing capabilities, and a health care system that reacts “robustly.”
While the federal government is laying out the guidelines, it is still up to local and state leaders to make decisions as to what is best for their particular situation.
Worldwide there have been reports of a return of the virus in countries where restrictions were lifted after successful measures to stop the spread, such as China and South Korea, while other countries such as France are staying on lockdown for another month. Today reported Wednesday, that the coronavirus is showing “alarming signs of resurgence” in China. The story, covering how nations around the world are handling the virus, noted there is a “patchwork of approaches and challenges around the world, which could be the new normal until there is a vaccine.”
Writers of the Plan Say There Will Likely be an Ebb & Flow Between Mitigation Measures
The plan acknowledges it’s possible that as directives relax, the virus may start to spread again. It says people and governments should prepare to tighten restrictions again if that happens.
“Leaders at all levels will need to prepare communities for occasionally returning to stricter mitigation measures for brief periods as needed to continue containing the disease,” the document says.
It also emphasizes that current hygiene measures would need to stay in place. Hand washing, hand sanitizing, wearing masks where groups of people congregate, and maintaining social distancing from non-family members should still be adhered to, they say, though it is unclear how that would be managed if students were in school, daycare, or camp.
According to Business Insider on April 10, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, thinks it’s too soon to reopen. She told the news outlet, “Our testing infrastructure, which was abysmal, is now mediocre, but nowhere near adequate for opening up.”