White House will release a plan to 'open up' the country from coronavirus restrictions
- The White House plans to release a proposed roadmap for easing social distancing restrictions in place to combat the coronavirus at a briefing on Thursday. A copy was obtained in advance by the Washington Post.
- The plan relies heavily on the assumption that testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus will increase. At the moment, the U.S. has yet to rapidly scale up either method.
- The plan would be implemented at the discretion of each state's governors.
- It consists of three phases, each of which gradually lift restrictions for individuals, employers, and venues like theaters and houses of worship.
- But vulnerable Americans would still need to shelter-in-place until the final phase of the plan, meaning millions of people will likely need to live in lockdown for months to come.
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The White House plans to release guidelines for relaxing the current restrictions aimed at slowing the novel coronavirus, but many limitations would need to remain in place for vulnerable Americans, a population that could number in the millions.
The Washington Post obtained an advanced copy of the plan, which Trump is expected to formally announce at a coronavirus task force briefing Thursday evening.
The document lays out criteria for relaxing stay-at-home orders and business closures, and guidelines for employers and individuals to operate safely in the new COVID-19 reality. But the plan also relies heavily on an increase in testing and contact tracing, two methods of tracking the coronavirus that the U.S. has not managed to robustly ramp up yet.
The plan is broken into three phases during which restrictions would gradually relax. Throughout the plan, however, people would still be discouraged from gathering in large groups and urged to take precautions in public settings.
To activate the elements of the plan, the White House sets out three criteria to set off a de-escalation of restrictions, with the caveat that individual states and cities may need to tailor it.
- Symptoms of COVID-19 as well as symptoms of influenza-like illnesses must decline for 14 days.
- A downward trajectory of cases within a 14-day period, or a decrease in the percentage of positive tests within that timeframe.
- Hospitals must be treating all patients without crisis care, and have a "robust" testing process available for vulnerable workers.
Once those criteria are met, states can move onto the phases of reopening their societies. Everyone will still be asked to maintain necessary hygiene, including washing hands for at least 20 seconds and avoiding touching their faces.
However, in all but the final phase, vulnerable populations are asked to continue to shelter in place. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults, or 92 million people, are especially vulnerable to contracting a serious case of COVID-19 because of their age or a health condition, according to an analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation. The data suggest that even with a perfect rollout of the White House' plan, life will still remain on lockdown for a significant portion of America's population.
The document makes it clear that they are to be implemented either statewide or by county at each governor's discretion.
- In Phase 1, individuals are still encouraged to avoid groups of more than 10 people, minimize travel if possible, and adhere to Centers for Disease Control isolation guidelines if they do need to travel. Employers should encourage telework, close common areas, and minimize travel, though attempt to return to work in phases. Some public venues may open up with "strict social distancing" guidelines, but day care and camp would remain closed and visits to senior living facilities would be forbidden. Sit down restaurants, but not bars, would be permitted to ease into opening.
- In Phase 2, individuals should avoid groups of more than 50 people and continue social distancing techniques. Non-essential travel can resume. Companies should continue to encourage telework and keep public spaces closed, but non-essential business travel can resume. Some cornerstones of everyday American life, including bars, gyms, and schools, can reopen with physical distancing protocols. But visits to senior living facilities is still prohibited.
- In Phase 3, vulnerable individuals can ease back into public life, while taking precautions. People could go back to work, and visit their loved ones in senior living facilities and hospitals. Large venues such as houses of worship and theaters could resume operations, with physical distancing protocols. And more people will be allowed into bars.
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