Opening In Phases

Across the country, there is a growing unrest. People are frustrated. They are tired of being told to shelter in place and want to get back to life, as they knew it. Protestors have united and are standing in solidarity at State Houses demanding that Governors open the economy back up. The media has carefully crafted a narrative on some channels that this is a far-right movement. They show people waiving Trump 2020 flags and others are reported to be carrying confederate flags. For anyone who was under the impression that COVID-19 was a-political, I’m sorry to inform you that it’s business as usual. This is, after all, an election year.

Putting politics aside because that’s what we should do, the number one problem in the USA and across the world is no longer COVID-19, it’s the economy. Yes, the Wuhan Coronavirus is still spreading across the globe. 

Yes, President Trump has ordered a halt to funding the World Health Organization (WHO) for a myriad of reasons. 

The US is the WHO’s largest sponsor. 

The WHO does give the impression of being China-centric by praising the communist regime, which only contributes a fraction of the organization’s financial support in comparison to other countries. The WHO has been overtly critical of the Trump administration’s Chinese travel ban and any other suggestions of China being cast in a negative light. The WHO has gotten the severity of the impact that COVID-19 can have wrong, but they are not alone.

Up until the first week of March of this year, doctors, epidemiologists, and politicians across the aisle downplayed the severity of COVID-19. Journalists on news programs who were high on impeachment casted anyone who had legitimate concerns about the origins of the virus and it’s potential to spread quickly as racists and xenophobic. Those same people are now preaching that we have to remain locked down and hide in our houses until there’s either a vaccine in place or we see little to no infections and deaths. The people who create the models went from projecting millions to die to just tens of thousands. Any loss of life is sad. This goes without saying. While we mourn for those lost and pray for the speedy recovery of those infected we must be grateful that the virus’s impact was not as severe as expected and proceed with getting back to living in a prudent and expeditious manner. In other words, we have to open up the economy in phases.

America, like any other country, has densely populated urban areas with populations in the millions and rural farming communities where your nearest neighbor is miles away. 

COVID-19’s impact from the coastlands to the heartland is as varied as its landscape. The problem New York City and Long Island are facing are vastly different than New York State and many other states combined. Where the impact is the greatest, so too will the pace of reopening the economy take the longest. It’s similar to any natural disaster. In cities where the virus has had little impact and never experienced a spike in cases, they will be able to expedite the reopening process.

This week the White House in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control has released guidelines on parameters that should be followed to safely reopen the economy in three phases.

The criteria for moving from phase one to three focuses primarily on symptoms, cases, and hospitals.

Symptoms

Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period AND a downward trajectory of COVID-like syndrome cases reported within a 14-day period.

Cases

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).

Hospitals

Treat all patients without crisis care AND robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.

The guidelines for all phases for individuals are simple. Continue to practice good hygiene. If you feel sick, stay home. Listen to recommended guidance from the CDC and local and state officials.

The guidelines for all phases for employers are a little more involved. Along with adhering to Federal, State and local guidelines businesses should stay informed and utilize industry best practices pertaining to:

  • Social distancing and protective equipment
  • Temperature checks
  • Sanitation
  • Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas
  • Business travel

Phase One is a gradual reduction in restrictions. 

Social distancing is recommended and non-essential travel should be minimized. Avoid areas where there is the potential for groups of 10 or more to gather. For employers, they should encourage telework when possible and return to work in phases.

Specific types of employers are advised to remain closed or open on a limited capacity. Schools, daycare and organized youth activities that are currently closed should remain closed. Visits to large senior citizen facilities and hospitals should be prohibited. 

Large venues such as movie theaters, sporting venues, and places of worship can operate so long as strict social distancing guidelines are implemented. Gyms can reopen as well if they follow the same protocols. Bars should remain closed. Elective surgeries can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis.

Phase Two sees parks, shopping malls and other outdoor areas where there are 50 or more people open so long as social distancing guidelines are practiced. Non-essential travel can resume. Vulnerable people should remain sheltered in place.

Employers who were previously closed are now able to see a lifting in restrictions in some cases. Schools, daycare, and organized youth activities can reopen. Large venues can operate under strict physical distancing protocols. Elective surgeries can resume at out and in-patient facilities. Gyms can reopen if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols. 

Bars may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where applicable and appropriate.

Phase Three shows life returning to normal with an emphasis on social distancing and minimizing exposure for vulnerable individuals. 

Low-risk populations should consider minimizing the time spent in crowded environments.

Employers can resume unrestricted staffing of worksites. Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. 

Large venues can operate under limited physical distancing protocols. Gyms can reopen if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols. Bars may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.

Throughout these phases, the White House has focused heavily on protecting those amongst us who are the most at risk and vulnerable. If you are elderly or have serious underlying health conditions you should take extra precautions to minimize your interactions with the public by continuing to practice social distancing, good hygiene, and wear protective personal equipment.

The road to reopening may feel daunting and rightfully so. No one in charge wants to return to life, as we knew it only to see a rise in infections that force us to shelter in place once again to life, as we now know it. A slow and steady approach on a measured basis, where appropriate, is the only way to get our country back to work and back on track. On a practical and compassionate level, local and national leaders must find a balance between protecting the people and causing more harm than good. If people are not allowed to go to work, those who are deemed essential and not, our elected officials will be responsible for creating a self-inflicted crisis that is far greater than the current one brought on by an invisible army. If we go from a recession to depression because leaders are too scared to let people live, we will not only lose our wealth and our standing in the world, we will lose our homes, and the currency that is our courage will be bankrupt.

Coronavirus Economy

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