What You Need to Know as the Country Prepares to Reopen with Coronavirus

Published June 4th, 2020 by Dr. Brady McNulty, PharmD, BCGP
Fact Checked by

States around the country are in various stages of reopening after being shut down due to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. While many state governments have their own individual approach to the process, some have formed agreements with one another so that they open together in an organized way.

The Governors of California, Oregon, and Washington made such a pact, with Colorado and Nevada joining the group later.

Politicians and government officials must balance the economic impact of their management of the pandemic with the risk of further spreading the virus. Additionally, people are anxious to leave their homes, resume their activities, and restore a sense of normalcy in their lives.

Reopening in Stages

As the stay-at-home orders are either lifted or expire, many states are pushing forward with a planned, phased reopening. The businesses and forums included in each phase typically reflect a level of necessity and ability to comply with social distancing measures.

In some states, restaurants are reopening in limited fashion with either curbside pick-up service or restricted capacities. Bars and nightclubs remain closed in many cases.

Providers are beginning to schedule non-urgent procedures again, bringing both workers and patients back into the hospitals and clinics around the country. Lines may move slower, however, as some offices will want to space out appointments, test patients upon entry, and otherwise follow social distancing and increased sanitary procedures.

Public schools largely remain closed through the summer, after some states had hoped to reopen schools late in the Spring semester. Many schools and colleges have shifted entirely to online courses of study via platforms such as Zoom.

Colleges are also trying to figure out a resumption of college athletics. According to the Wall Street Journal, University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel has said athletics will not resume if on-campus instruction has not resumed.

Public venues are returning to service in phases as well. Theme parks, for example, appear to be reopening gift shops first with the general park to open later. Six Flags plans to allow only twenty-five percent of their peak capacity into their parks. Expect to see staff members wearing masks and trying to wrangle crowds to ensure social distancing is maintained. Companies will have to get creative to manage long lines and the cleaning of rides between trips.

As States Reopen, Stay Cautious

Depending on your location, it may seem as though the worst of COVID-19 is past. Remember that the curve has been relatively flattened after members of the public took aggressive action to limit the spread of the disease.

The CDC continues to recommend social distancing and wearing face masks as the public resumes normal activity. They also recommend that businesses develop and implement solid plans for cleaning and disinfecting spaces for the safety of the public.

Asymptomatic Spreading

It is important to remember that COVID-19 has an incubation period – which is the time between infection and showing symptoms. One of the great dangers then, is that people who are not actively showing symptoms can spread COVID-19 during this timeframe – typically 2 to 14 days (with an average of 5).

A recent piece in the New England Journal of Medicine called this asymptomatic transmission the “Achilles’ Heel of Current Strategies to Control” the pandemic.

People may feel a false sense of security if they do not feel sick. When combined with the excitement of reopening, this sense of security may lead to feeling able or even entitled to venture out into the world with less need for personal precautions.

This kind of behavior increases the risk for spikes in COVID-19 cases around the country as states reopen.

New Normal Social Practices

The handshake and other forms of embrace may have had their day. Routine office meetings, church gatherings, and exercise classes will most likely either necessitate the enforcement of a reduced capacity to allow for social distancing or continued use of videoconferencing. And this might be seen in many other aspects of daily life.

General gatherings of large groups of people are still being discouraged. Weddings and funerals temporarily are becoming smaller affairs. College commencement ceremonies are taking place via video. With concerts all but universally canceled or postponed, some performers are performing concerts for fans strictly via video streaming.

Coming Out of Our Shells

With many governors issuing stay at home orders months ago, a significant portion of the public have been playing the role of unwilling hermit, working from home or being stuck at home without the opportunity to work.

Travel has been limited, as well. During this time, contact with friends and family may have been limited mostly to video chats and social media. These social and financial stressors, along with the vexing nature of changing one’s day to day lifestyle to cope with the pandemic, would impact anyone’s mental health.

As people reenter the public space together, be aware of the difficulties others have endured in the last several months. Support friends who are struggling with resuming their normal lives and be understanding of the transition many are making during this time.

Go Forward at the Right Pace

States are allowing the public to begin resuming normal activities. People are working and shopping again. They are getting their hair done and going to restaurants again. As they do so, it is imperative they remember that COVID-19 is still here. Take the appropriate precautions and be responsible. We are not out of the woods yet.

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Published June 4th, 2020 by Dr. Brady McNulty, PharmD, BCGP
Fact Checked by

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