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We’re all feeling it: the itch to go out to eat, to get our hair done, to see a movie, or even go to the store to try on some new clothes. And we’ve certainly heard some people being very vocal about the discomfort and cabin fever that has come about as a result of not being able to scratch that itch. It has been difficult for all of us. However, the time spent keeping unnecessary social and economic activities to a minimum has been time well spent. It’s the only way to minimize the damage SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) can do to our communities.
This virus is something over which we have very little control and about which we have very little understanding—though our understanding grows every day. It’s important to understand that, aside from feeling the need to scratch that itch, the push to reopen is more political and economic in nature than based on scientific evidence. In any event, the White House has issued guidelines that can help states decide when it is safe to reopen.
What are the Federal Guidelines for Reopening?
The White House has suggested that, before a reopening which takes place in phases, each state should reach certain milestones. Those suggested guidelines are the following:
- Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period, AND
- Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period
- Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period, OR
- Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)
- Treat all patients without crisis care, AND
- Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing
As of this writing, only two states have reached those milestones: Illinois and New York.
Is it Safe to Go Out?
It’s important to keep in mind that the guidelines are just suggestions. Governors can make the decision for their states as to whether they want to open up again. A few governors have made the decision to open completely (not in a phased manner) before even meeting the federal guidelines. Those states have unfortunately seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
It is advisable to exercise as much caution as possible to avoid contracting the virus, especially when pregnant. You may want to check in with your state or county website to find out what phase of reopening your area is currently in before making a decision to go out.
What are the Phases?
There are three phases that are meant to minimize the chance of a possible resurgence of the virus and to protect vulnerable populations (those that have underlying medical conditions and the elderly). In my opinion, it would be wise to consider a pregnant woman part of the vulnerable population.
Phase One: After meeting the suggested guidelines for reopening, a state can enter the first phase of reopening. During phase one, it is suggested that vulnerable populations continue isolating. Masks should be worn when out in public, and people should continue social distancing. Working from home is encouraged. It is recommended that people not gather in groups larger than 10. It is also recommended that you avoid non-essential travel.
During this phase, schools and kids’ activities are not operating. However, larger venues like restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship (and even health clubs) can open if proper sanitation and social distancing procedures are in place. Finally, bars should remain closed.
Phase Two: This phase is for locations where they have not seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases after implementing phase one opening procedures. In phase two, it is still recommended that vulnerable individuals continue staying at home as much as possible. Working from home is still encouraged. Social gathering with physical distancing of less than 50 individuals is allowed. Non-essential travel is also allowed.
Schools and organized kids’ activities can resume in phase two (hooray!). Restaurants, movie theaters, and places of worship can operate with “moderate” physical distancing. Health clubs are still operating with proper distancing and sanitation. Finally, bars can open with—you guessed it—proper physical distancing and sanitation.
Phase Three: This final phase of reopening safely is for locations that have opened under phase two guidelines and have not seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. This is the phase in which vulnerable populations should feel a bit safer going out, as long as proper physical distancing can be undertaken. Employees can return to their workplaces. Restaurants, bars, health clubs, movie theaters, of places of worship are still encouraged to have physical distancing protocols and proper sanitation. People in general should try to limit the amount of time spent in crowded places.
There is still much we don’t know about the effects of COVID-19. It is advisable to exercise as much caution as possible to avoid contracting the virus, especially when pregnant. You may want to check in with your state or county website to find out what phase of reopening your area is currently in before making a decision to go out.