More than four months into the global coronavirus pandemic, authorities in many areas are starting to look to the future and plan for reopenings. The White House’s reopening plan puts forth three different stages of reopening, along with suggested benchmarks to hit before each phase. Meanwhile, many states are setting their own guidelines, which may or may not align with the federal ones, making it all extra confusing. If you're wondering what the coronavirus reopening phases are — and what they mean — here’s what you should know.
The White House unveiled the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again on April 16, at the height of the coronavirus crisis. While not mandatory, the guidelines detail which types of businesses can reopen during which phase, as well as the public's continued responsibility to practice good hygiene and social distancing. As of June 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends “Considerations for Daily Life” and “Considerations for Events and Gatherings” for individuals to keep in mind as states reopen during the pandemic, and they include maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible, wearing face coverings in public, and washing your hands regularly during every phase of reopening.
Before entering any phased reopening, the federal government advises that states should meet some requirements. According to the plan, before a state should begin to open, there needs to be a downward trajectory of COVID-like symptomatic cases and documented cases within a 14-day period. States are also advised to have the ability to have hospitals treat all patients without applying crisis standards of care (which occurs when resources are limited), to set up safe and efficient screening and testing, as well as to have proper healthcare system capacity to handle a possible surge in patients. As of Monday, July 6, all 50 states are in some phase of reopening.
There are different rules about resuming social activity and reopening businesses depending on which phase the state and region you live in is currently in, so to help you navigate what the process of reopening will look like from start to finish, here's a breakdown of the White House's three phases, which serve as guidelines for states’ reopening processes.
In Phase One of reopening, individuals should continue to social distance in public, and you should avoid events of more than 10 people unless appropriate distancing can be observed. You should also avoid non-essential travel and follow the CDC's guidelines about isolation if you do end up traveling. All vulnerable individuals — including the elderly and people with serious underlying health conditions — should continue to shelter in place in Phase One. In many states, large venues, such as sit-down dining, movie theaters, and more, as well as gyms, can open with restrictions and strict physical distancing protocols. Bars and schools should remain closed.
In addition to maximizing physical distance from others in public spaces, people should avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. Non-essential travel can resume with precautions, but all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place. Large venues as well as gyms can open under moderate physical distancing protocols. Bars can also open, but depending on the space, they may have less standing-room occupancy. Schools can also reopen during this time.
In the final stage of reopening, vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions while practicing physical distancing, but they should avoid social settings where distancing may not be practical. Low-risk individuals should still consider cutting down on time spent in crowded settings. States and cities can reopen gyms under standard sanitation protocols, and bars can operate with more standing room occupancy.
But that’s just the federal guidelines.
Importantly, the federal reopening phases are just guidelines, not mandatory requirements, and many states have implemented more than three phases for their respective reopening plans. In New York, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined guidelines for reopening the 10 economic regions of New York, with four phases detailing which essential and low risk businesses can open first. Parts of upstate New York were the first regions to enter Phase One on Friday, May 15. As of Friday, June 26, the entire state, except for New York City, is in Phase Four, which reopens the art, sports, and education industries. New York City entered Phase One on Monday, June 8, and as of June 22, entered Phase Two, which saw the opening of outdoor dining at restaurants, hair salons, retail stores, and more. The city moved to Phase Three on Monday, July 6, reopening spas, professional offices, and more. However, Cuomo put a pause on reopening indoor dining during Phase Three, due to the fact that indoor dining has been shown to pose risks in other states.
In some states, reopening has been fraught. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled the state’s “Open Texas” guidelines on April 27, which features three phases. Phase One began on Friday, May 1, and as of Wednesday, June 3, Texas is currently in Phase Three of reopening, with restaurants allowed to open at 75% of occupancy. In Phase One of reopening, all retail stores, restaurants, malls, and movie theaters were allowed to open at 25% of capacity, while Phase Two allowed services to operate at 50% of capacity. However, on June 25, Abbott closed all the bars in the state and put a state-wide temporary pause on additional reopening, due to increased coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Texas reported a record 8,258 new cases on Saturday, July 4.
Other state and local officials have also indicated they are willing to roll back or pause reopening altogether if COVID-19 case numbers rise in their areas. On Sunday, June 28, ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend in Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered all beaches and county parks closed from Friday, July 3 through Tuesday, July 7, as the numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state rise. Up the coast, on Monday, June 29, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced an indefinite pause on reinstating indoor dining, which was due to resume on Thursday, July 2, in order to avoid a possible rise in cases.
Reopening phases that apply to where you live will likely resemble a mix of the White House guidelines and the aforementioned examples, but the specifics will depend on the direct guidance coming from your city or state, so you'll want to stay up-to-date by looking for updates from your local government in the news or by following your local leaders on social media. You should also continue to take COVID-19 safety precautions — like wearing a face mask and washing your hands often — as recommended by the CDC during every phase of reopening.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.