In an effort to save the economy and get daily life back to normal, governors across the US are rolling out plans to lift lockdown restrictions.
By reopening the states at a time when nationwide coronavirus deaths continue to rise, they are ignoring growing concerns from health officials who warn that an easing of restrictions may lead to the second wave of COVID-19.
Are Restrictions Being Eased in My State?
The above map from US Today shows that almost all states are easing restrictions as they begin phase one of their reopening plans: most of which began at the end of May.
In Wisconsin however, the state’s supreme court knocked down the statewide order to shut down daily life and subsequently lifted all restrictions. In Alaska, life is returning to the way it was “prior to the virus”. All businesses will be allowed to open without any capacity restrictions or social distancing guidelines.
Unlike the majority of states which have at the very least loosened the stay-at-home orders, citizens in D.C have been ordered to stay at home until June 8th. In comparison, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming never actually issued statewide stay-at-home orders.
North Carolina’s restrictions remain unchanged since early May. They moved on to the second phase of their reopening plan considerably earlier than other states, despite a growing number of confirmed cases.
Which Businesses are Reopening?
Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies remained open during the lockdown. Now, many non-essential and recreational businesses like malls, restaurants, gyms, salons, and entertainment venues are reopening as stay-at-home orders expire. Most reopening strategies are not without restrictions.
Nearly all states have allowed retail businesses to reopen, but with varying restrictions. For example, retail stores and malls are required to operate at 20% capacity in South Carolina, 50% in Minnesota, and at 75% in Indiana. In New Jersey, stores inside malls can open, but items need to be delivered to customers waiting in cars outside.
Most states have also issued plans to reopen restaurants. Restrictions between states vary, but most require staff and customers to follow guidelines in one way or another. This includes mask-wearing from both parties in states including Nebraska, North Dakota, and Vermont.
Most restaurants are required to either work on a reservation-only basis or at least at limited capacity. In Idaho, restaurants can offer a curbside takeaway service to limit the spread of the virus.
Gyms and Salons
Will the reopening of gyms and salons bring an end to home workouts on Instagram Live and questionable lockdown hairstyles?
Salons and gyms will need to operate at a maximum of 25% capacity in Louisiana, and 50% in Florida. They can also open in West Virginia, Texas, Montana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Indiana, and Kansas, but with restrictions. They remain closed in Minnesota and Idaho.
In Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, and Texas, bars and nightclubs will remain shut. However, in Oklahoma, Michigan, North Dakota, and Montana, bars are allowed to be open but must adhere to guidelines. For example, there are strict social distancing and sanitation directives in Oklahoma, and in Michigan, bars can not exceed 50% capacity.
As for outdoor entertainment, Florida has started to reopen parts of Walt Disney World. In Arizona, The Grand Canyon National Park controversially opened one of its entrances mid-May. Professional sports leagues have also been given the green light to start practicing in Arizona. In California and New York, sports will be permitted but without spectators.
Are Restrictions Being Lifted too Soon?
At the time of writing, the US has reported more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases with almost 100,000 of those resulting in death. COVID-19 deaths are continuing to rise, but for many Americans, quarantine fatigue has become more prevalent than the fear of infection.
Since the end of March, millions of Americans have been told to stay at home. Now, the decision from at least 40 states to loosen stay-at-home orders has been welcomed by many. Lockdown has not only affected the US economy, but also many people’s mental health. However, many experts say that easing lockdown measures now means that the second wave of coronavirus is likely.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, said new localized outbreaks were “inevitable” as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Front-line health workers have also expressed their concern that another surge of COVID-19 infections would have devastating effects and cost many more lives, including their own.
How to Stay Safe
As most of America begins to lift lockdown restrictions while the number of confirmed cases is still rising, it’s more important than ever to remain as informed as possible in order to stay safe from COVID-19. Along with remembering to regularly disinfect hands and surfaces, it’s every citizen’s responsibility to check and adhere to their state’s social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
In light of new evidence regarding the effectiveness of face masks, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that all US citizens should wear a face mask in public to slow the spread of the virus. A mask or cloth face covering will help to prevent the spread of large infectious droplets expelled from the mouths of COVID-19 positive people, with or without symptoms. If every American was to wear a face mask in order to protect others from themselves, the community-based transmission would reduce.
Many states have taken the CDC’s recommendation one step further and made mask-wearing a mandatory requirement for both members of the general public and workers of re-opening businesses.