You may have noticed in the news that restrictions are beginning to lift in the US and around the globe. But what will it actually take to return to normal life in the midst of an ongoing pandemic?
As President Trump begins to reopen the US economy amidst fears that prolonged shutdown could cause long-term damage to our society, members of the public are left wondering how that might look for themselves, their families, and their places of work.
It’s tough to predict what it might take to go back to business as usual, but here’s what lifting the lockdown is set to look like in the US.
The first stage of the fight against coronavirus is to slow the spread. Many parts of the US are currently in this stage, with residents being ordered to stay at home with the exception of exercise and essential trips for groceries and medicine.
During phase 1, businesses that are considered essential are allowed to open. This includes pharmacies and medical centers, grocery stores, gas stations, and banks. Being outside for exercise is allowed, but social distancing orders are in place and some states have made it mandatory to wear face masks.
However, nonessential businesses are forbidden from opening, which includes sports stadiums, malls, and beauty salons. Restaurants have been allowed to stay open in many cases, but only for takeout. Some states including New Jersey have also continued to allow bars and pubs to open.
Several states across the US are now entering phase 2. The US government recommends that phase 2 can begin when the number of daily cases has been steadily dropping for at least two weeks, when hospitals can operate outside crisis mode to care for coronavirus patients, and when testing becomes available for frontline workers.
Phase 2 looks different for each state. For example, Georgia has allowed businesses to open while California is loosening DMV operations and allowing some construction sites to reopen. In Florida, beaches are open and restaurants and retail stores are already back in action.
Some states may follow their own additional guidelines such as contact tracing and widespread testing for anyone with symptoms. Hard-hit New York is one of the states that is currently waiting for additional safeguarding, and their new cases are decreasing as a result.
During phase 2, high-risk people including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are still advised to shelter in place.
As new cases decrease and testing becomes more readily available, the US will move into phase 3. At this point, state leaders will be working on reopening high-risk businesses where social distancing isn’t possible. This includes hair salons and nail shops and could also apply to movie theaters, gyms, and places of worship.
Phase 3 will only be possible with contact tracing in place. Contact tracing is one of the best tools to identify infected individuals as well as anyone who may have become infected by being in close proximity to that person. Having this system in place will allow states to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19, which an important element in a successful phase 3.
What Happens After Phase 3?
The main goal of phase 1-3 is to achieve community-wide resistance to coronavirus. This could be done in one of two ways:
- Herd immunity - this is where at least 60% of the population has been exposed to COVID-19 and has therefore gained some degree of immunity to the virus.
- Vaccine - social-distancing orders can be fully lifted once a safe vaccine has been identified.
Even after the three phases are complete, some measures are likely to remain in place for longer. Interstate travel restrictions will relax, but some states may require anyone who arrives from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days. At the time of writing, Hawaii and Rhode Island both have this order in place.
Public transport for nonessential trips will also continue to be affected because passengers of buses, trains, and airplanes are in close proximity for extended periods of time.
How to Stay Safe as Lockdown is Lifted
We are in unchartered territories so it’s tricky to know what you can and can’t do as rules are slowly relaxed. That’s why we recommend using a reliable news source to stay informed on your state’s latest rules and restrictions.
As lockdown lifts, it can also be tempting to forget that social distancing and good hygiene are as important as ever. That’s why we recommend continuing to wear a face mask whenever you’re in a situation where social distancing isn’t possible.
Our 100% cotton face masks are comfortable and breathable, and they’re also reusable which is better for the planet than disposable masks.