When Will the U.S. be “Open For Business” Again? NY Times Says These 4 Benchmarks Must be Achieved First

by Joe Sesso on April 14, 2020

As the reports continue to pour in with more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19, there appeared to be a glimmer of hope last week, as the CDC said that the initial projections of deaths from the disease appeared to be flattening substantially. And while people are still very concerned about contracting the virus, perhaps the biggest question on everyone’s mind is, “When will my city/state be open for business again?”
COVID-19 image, coronavirus image

This is indeed a very important question. While many U.S. workers have had to set up makeshift offices in their homes, millions of others are now without jobs due to the Coronavirus’ impact. The longer that the U.S. remains on lock down, the greater the possibility of even more businesses shutting down, and some for good. So when will it be safe to resume normal activities again? New York Times writer Aaron E. Carroll published a great article detailing four critical benchmarks that should be achieved before we can reopen. Here they are.

Benchmark #1: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat ALL PATIENTS requiring hospitalization.

This is very important. Many hospitals are currently overwhelmed and teetering on overcapacity. They have to not only have the equipment necessary to treat all patients (e.g. ventilators) but they have to be able to conduct operations without resorting to crisis standards. The Times article claims that many cities haven’t peaked yet with number of cases, and indicated that it could be several weeks before they reach the apex. This is perhaps the most critical benchmark of the four.

Benchmark #2: A state needs to be able to test everyone who has symptoms.

If I were a governor, I would take this a step further and make sure that ANYONE and EVERYONE can readily take the test. Since more than 50% of all people infected feel zero symptoms, they can still spread the virus which, as we’ve seen, can lead to lethal outcomes. Everyone must be able to get tested, and these tests need to be as easy as being able to walk into your local Walgreens or CVS to take them. People that feel no symptoms don’t want to make an appointment and then go to a doctor and sit in a waiting room. The test has to be as easy as going to the local pharmacy.

Benchmark #3: The state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts

Being able to conduct things like “contact tracing” and isolation on a large scale can help prevent outbreaks from happening in an area. Many countries are using cellphone technology to track confirmed cases. That’s a problem in the U.S., where it is a possible conflict with civil liberties. The other challenge is that many states don’t have enough manpower to carry out these types of tasks.

A possible alternative to this is the antibody test. If a person has COVID-19 antibodies in their system, it means they were exposed to the virus at some point. These antibodies could mean the person is now immune from contracting COVID-19 again (similar to having chicken pox as a kid). The Times article quoted Dr. Gregg Gonsalves from Yale University as saying this would be a very important step in being able to allow at least some people back to work. But Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned that testing would be required to see if in fact prior exposure equals immunity for COVID-19, since the virus is so new.The antibody tests are now available with more on the way, but the person taking the test would also need to take a COVID-19 test to confirm that they currently don’t have the disease and are not contagious.

Benchmark #4: There must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days

If a state can go fourteen consecutive days (minimum) with a steady decline of confirmed cases each day, it will be a key indicator that the disease has been significantly reduced. Fourteen days is important because the incubation period for COVID-19 is up to 14 days after infection.

The article went on to say that as of April 6th, we are nowhere near hitting any of these benchmarks. My personal opinion is that some states will open sooner than others due to lower infection and/or better mitigation techniques. Other states will take a “wait and see” approach to see if additional outbreaks take place in the states that opened first.

When do you think your state will reopen? Feel free to comment below.

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