What Does It Mean to Reopen America?
Reopening America after coronavirus may not as clear or linear a process as most of us would hope. When will gyms reopen? What about your favorite salons, restaurants, and shopping destinations? More ambiguous still is what workplaces will look like after Phase 1 reopening, as outlined by the White House. And what could lead to a second wave of COVID-19 infections? Here’s an overview of how and when states are reopening businesses.
Disclaimer: The following is neither legal nor medical advice. Please see the CDC for up-to-date information on the pandemic or speak with a medical professional regarding your health.
Why the Urgency to Reopen America?
The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy has been global, wide-ranging and rapid. Here's an overview of what has happened economically thus far:
- U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) was down 4.8% in Q1 of 2020, according to the New York Times. Q2 is predicted to be even more dismal.
- The UN predicts that the world economy will contract 3.2% during the pandemic, undoing 4 years of growth.
- Over 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began.
- In May of 2020, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that America may be facing the worst recession since World War II.
The arguments for reopening the economy in America are significant, though efforts and regulations are anything but consistent. By the middle of March, almost all countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had implemented some form of travel restrictions, school, workplace, and transportation closures, and put in place limits on public events.
The economic impact of these closures has been severe. A report published by the UN World Economic Situation and Prospects predicts that the global economy will shrink 3.2% due to the pandemic.
In the United States alone, over 36 million unemployment applications have been filed according to Bloomberg since coronavirus shutdowns began. In a speech delivered on May 13, 2020, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned, “the scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since World War II.” He strongly encouraged the White House and Congress to offer more financial assistance to assuage long-term joblessness and business closures.
As a result, states and countries are weighing the dangers of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases with the growing economic hardships associated with stay at home orders.
3 Phases of Reopening Guidelines from the White House
In response to these concerns, the White House has released reopening guidelines broken down into three phases.
As always, the following is neither medical nor legal advice. It is intended solely for educational purposes. For updates on reopening phases or gated criteria, please see the White House website.
Gated Criteria (to be Satisfied Before Phase 1 Reopening):
Satisfying the gating criteria is the first step to a return to normal. It may include that a region or state has:
- 14 days of decreasing number of influenza or COVID-19 like symptoms.
- 14 days of decreasing number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases or cases as a total percentage of tested individuals.
- Hospitals have a strong testing protocol in place.
- Hospitals have treated all non-crisis care patients.
Phase 1 Reopening Guidelines
If the gated criteria is satisfied, a state may proceed to Phase 1. Guidelines are broken down for individuals, employers and other special cases: They include but are not limited to:
- Employers should encourage working from home when possible, curb non-essential travel, accommodate those who are vulnerable, and — if possible — return workers to the workplace in phases rather than all at once.
- Individuals who are vulnerable should shelter in place and those cohabitating with them should know of the risks of returning to work, either separating vulnerable people or taking special precautions.
Industry-Specific Reopening Guidelines:
- Schools, camps, and daycares that have closed should continue to be closed until further notice.
- Bars are to remain closed.
- Restaurants, movie theatres, churches, sports facilities, and gyms may reopen while maintaining strict guidelines, sanitization, and social distancing measures.
- Visits to nursing homes should be prohibited.
- Elective surgeries may be performed.
When Will Restaurants Reopen?
According to White House guidelines, restaurants may open for business during phase 1. In many cases, there are strict state-by-state regulations to follow as well. When restaurants reopen largely depends on which state they are in. The following have already allowed for some restaurants to resume business:
- Alaska as of 4/27/20 at 25% capacity with reservations only.
- Arizona as of 5/11/20 with 10 people per party maximum.
- Arkansas as of 5/11/20 at 33% capacity also with 10 people per party maximum.
- California reopening dependent on individual counties and social distancing measures.
- Connecticut to allow outdoor dining on 5/20/20.
- Florida as of 5/4/20 at 25% capacity with certain county-specific restrictions, including Miami-Dade county. 6 ft between outdoor tables required.
- Georgia as of 4/27/20 allows 10 guests for every 500 square feet and has a 6 person per party maximum.
- Indiana as of 5/11/20 with some county restrictions, including Indianapolis.
- Iowa: 77 counties to allow 50% capacity on 5/15/20 and 6 person maximum per party. Des Moines is not included.
- Kansas as of 5/4/20 to allow diners with 6 ft distance between tables and 10 person maximum per party. Not all counties included.
- Kentucky to open 5/22/20 at 33% capacity excluding outdoor tables, which are required to maintain 6ft distance.
- Louisiana as of 5/1/20 including New Orleans, with full indoor dining starting on 5/15 across the state and at 25% capacity in New Orleans on 5/16.
- Maine’s stay at home order set to expire May 31 with predicted restaurant reopenings for June.
- Mississippi opened restaurants 5/4/20 at 50% capacity with 6 people maximum party limit.
- Missouri does not have enforced capacity limits but requires social distancing and opened restaurants (excluding St Louis and Jackson County) on 5/4/20.
- Montana opened as of 5/4/20 at 50% capacity.
- Nevada opened 5/9/20 at 50% capacity.
- Nebraska as of 5/4/20 at 50% capacity.
- New Hampshire will reopen restaurants 5/18/20 without indoor dining service and with social distancing regulations for reservation-only outdoor dining.
- North Dakota as of 5/1/20 at 50% capacity.
- Ohio to reopen restaurant businesses for outdoor dining 5/15/20 and indoors 5/21/20 with 6 ft apart table limits and 10 people per party maximum.
- Oklahoma opened as of 5/1/20 with 6 ft table distance limitations.
- Oregon counties who have applied to begin reopening restaurants as of 5/15/20 with end of service at 10 pm and 6ft of table distance minimum.
- South Carolina as of 5/11/20 with social distancing advisory.
- South Dakota without capacity limits or social distancing enforcement.
- Tennessee as of 5/1/20 at 25% capacity for indoors.
- Utah as of 5/1/20 at 50% capacity with 6ft table distance.
- Washington reopening some counties as of 5/12/20 with a 5 person party maximum at 50% capacity.
- West Virginia as of 5/4/20 with outdoor only dining and 6 ft distance between tables.
For up-to-date information please see your county or state website.
Phase 2 Reopening Guidelines
If a state or region does not have evidence of a rebound, the following guidelines have been proposed by the White House. In other words, to proceed to Phase 2 reopening, states must again meet the gating criteria.
- Employers continue to encourage remote work, enforce social distancing, , keep common spaces closed, and are encouraged to accommodate vulnerable people.
- Individuals should maintain maximum physical distance from other people in public and avoid socializing in groups of 50 or more where social distancing is difficult or impossible. They may also travel for non-essential reasons. Vulnerable people and those living with vulnerable people should continue to shelter and place and adopt necessary productions, respectively.
Reopening Guidelines for Specific Businesses:
- Schools, daycares, and camps may reopen.
- Bars may reopen with social distancing and limited standing capacity.
- Restaurants, movie theatres, churches, sports facilities, and gyms may reopen with moderate physical distancing protocols.
- Elective surgeries are permitted.
- Visits to nursing homes should still be prohibited.
When Will Gyms Reopen?
Reopening gyms is a state-by-state decision. Under phase 1, they may be permitted to resume business when following strict protocol regarding cleaning and physical distancing.
Phase 3 Reopening Guidelines
To be followed when a state has successfully completed phase 2 without evidence of an increase in the number of cases.
- Employers no long have staffing restrictions.
- Individuals who are at low risk of infection should continue to minimize the time in places where social distancing is difficult. Vulnerable people may return to public life but must maintain physical distance and avoid high-risk environments.
Other Industry-Specific Guidelines
- Nursing home visitors are permitted with strict sanitation protocol.
- Limited distancing for larger venues including restaurants, theatres, sports facilities, and more.
- Bars are allowed to increase capacity.
- Gyms can reopen while following a standardized sanitation protocol.
When Will Salons Reopen?
Salons are open in some parts of:
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Predicted salon reopenings in:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
When Will Casinos Reopen?
It remains unclear in many cases, including in Las Vegas. There is no current timeline for Vegas to resume regular activities.
Reopening America in 3 Phases
There is a lot we don’t know about resuming regular business activities. When should gyms reopen? What about salons, restaurants, casinos, and other businesses? States, depending on legislators, the number of COVID-19 cases, population density, and other factors are testing the waters when it comes to reopening America.