By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - May 14, 2020
America is beginning to slowly reopen parks, businesses and restaurants, but how do health officials know the time is right and that it is safe?
There are federal guidelines outlining the steps states should take to reopen. But not every state appears to be following those guidelines, especially the one that says states should have a two-week decline in COVID-19 cases before considering reopening.
“If you follow the guidelines, there’s a continuity that’s safe, that’s prudent and that’s careful,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters. “There’s no doubt in my mind that when you pull back mitigation, you’re going to start seeing cases crop up here and there. If you’re not able to handle them, you’re going to see another peak, a spike, and then you almost have to turn the clock back to go back to mitigation.”
Certain public health strategies need to be in place as the country reopens, including increased COVID-19 testing, continued social distancing, isolation for those who have the virus and tracking of how those infected may have infected other people.
“Testing will not only allow us to know who is sick, but we can also track who that person has been in contact with to get them tested and possibly into self-quarantine,” said Tworoger. “It is a big undertaking and could be challenging, but it is necessary to help us better manage the virus and public health strategies needed in the community.”
Tworoger also said that social distancing will likely become a normal part of everyday life moving forward.
“We will need to figure out how to function in our culture and society while still maintaining some sort of social distancing,” she said. “That may mean restaurants only fill every other table or the movie theaters only fill every third seat on every other row so they can be open but still have separation,” she said.
Now that stores and restaurants are open, should you be a frequent patron? While that is a personal decision, Tworoger suggests following the same guidelines you would if you were heading to the grocery store or pharmacy during the stay at home order: Wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid touching your face and frequently wash your hands. For those who may be immunocompromised, like cancer patients, she says you may want to consult your physician before spending too much time in public or around people.
“Do what makes you feel comfortable. It is OK to feel nervous or worried about going out in public and being around groups of people,” said Tworoger. “If you’d prefer to stay in and order your groceries, that is OK, especially if it helps alleviate added stress.”