Health and Science

CDC quietly releases detailed guidelines for reopening America

Key Points
  • The 60-page document comes weeks after some states announced that they would lift stay-at-home orders and would begin reopening parts of their economies.
CDC Director Robert R. Redfield speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly released detailed guidance for reopening schools, mass transit and nonessential businesses that had been shut down in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

The 60-page document, dated only as May and posted on the website without a formal announcement, comes after some states announced they would lift stay-at-home orders and begin reopening parts of their economies. The CDC has remained largely quiet on the pandemic. Agency officials haven't held a coronavirus-related briefing in more than two months. 

The plan outlines a "three-phased approach" for reducing social distancing and proposes the use of six "gating" indicators to assess when to move through another phase. The gating indicators include decreases in newly reported Covid-19 cases and emergency room visits as well as a "robust" testing program.

"While some communities will progress sequentially through the reopening phases, there is the possibility of recrudescence in some areas," the CDC wrote in its guidance. "Given the potential for a rebound in the number of cases or level of community transmission, a low threshold for reinstating more stringent mitigation standards will be essential."

The CDC said the decision to reinstate strict social distancing measures "will undoubtedly be very difficult and will require careful thought." The agency said some amount of community mitigation will be necessary until a vaccine or effective treatment for Covid-19 is widely available.

The guidance recommended that schools currently closed should remain so in the first phase. Child-care programs should also remain closed in areas with a high number of cases unless the programs serve children of essential workers such as health-care workers. Once state and local governments enter the next phase, schools and child-care programs can open with "enhanced" social distancing measures. 

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The health agency said bars should remain closed and restaurants should be limited to drive-through, curbside take out or delivery in the first phase before reopening with limited capacity in the next phases.

Mass transit, which the CDC says is critical for many Americans to commute to and from work, should restrict ridership to essential infrastructure workers in the first phase. Social distancing is encouraged in the next two paces phases. 

Last month, President Donald Trump unveiled an 18-page plan for "Opening Up America Again," also laying out three phases to incrementally loosen restrictions on businesses and individuals.

Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration shelved a document created by the CDC that was meant to help business owners and educators as they begin to reopen.

Read the CDC's guidelines below:

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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