Coronavirus Updates and Resources

What are the Steps to Reopen the Economy?

Updated on June 04, 2020

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Updated June 4, 2020

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has left millions of individuals, business owners, and workers to wonder when and how the U. S. economy is going to get back on its feet.

Reopening the economy will undoubtedly be a gradual, phased-in process. The pace of economic recovery will vary by location, business sector, business size, and the health status of individuals and communities across the country and throughout the world.

The positive news is that all States have started the reopening process, and the federal government has provided guidance on how to keep the reopening on track.

Federal guidance on reopening the economy

On April 16, 2020, President Donald Trump laid out federal guidelines for states to emerge from a coronavirus shutdown in a three-stage approach. It sets forth a plan to revive the U.S. economy even as the country continues to fight the pandemic. You can read the guidelines here.

The federal guidelines are a set of recommendations, not orders, for state governors. Responsibility for such decisions lies with state, not federal, authorities. Governors are in a position to assess the creative tension of their residents and businesses—the need to be safe and the need to get back to work. Local community and government leaders are positioned well to gauge and respond to community infection levels, social stresses, infrastructure issues such as reliance on public transportation and hospital capacity.

Governors are currently forming regional alliances to collaborate on timing when to re-open their economy.

Proposed criteria for States reopening

Before the phasing process, the federal government has recommended that States meet data-driven objectives for symptoms, cases, and hospitals.

State Symptom Criteria

For states to meet this objective, it is recommended that they see a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period and a downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.

State Cases Criteria

For states to meet this objective, it is recommended that they see a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.

State Hospital Criteria

For states to meet this objective, it is recommended that they treat all patients without crisis care and have a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.

PHASE 1 of reopening the U.S. economy

During Phase 1 of reopening the economy, many of the current lockdown measures, such as avoiding non-essential travel and group gatherings of more than 10 people, will remain in place. Telework should be encouraged, and common areas in offices closed. But according to the guidelines, large venues such as restaurants, places of worship and sports venues “can operate under strict physical distancing protocols”. Hospitals may resume out-patient elective surgeries, and gyms can re-open with new protocols.

PHASE 2 of reopening the U.S. economy

Phase 2 will allow non-essential travel to resume if there is no evidence of a resurgence of COVID-19 in a state or region. The guidelines for Phase 2 of reopening the economy recommend groups of more than 50 people be avoided where social distancing is not practical. However, if physical space and social distancing behaviors can be controlled, the guidance says schools and youth camps can reopen and bars can operate “with diminished standing-room occupancy.” Hospitals may also resume in-patient elective surgeries—procedures that provide critical income to hospitals.

PHASE 3 of reopening the U.S. economy

Under Phase 3 of reopening the economy, states which are still seeing a downward trend of symptoms and cases can allow “public interactions” with physical distancing and the unrestricted staffing of worksites. Visits to care homes and hospitals can resume and bars and restaurants can increase their standing room capacity. Some regions could begin to return to normal after a month-long evaluation period, at the earliest, according to the guidelines. In places where there are more infections or where rates begin to rise, it could take longer.

The White House coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, suggested that as states worked through the three phases, they could allow for more employees to return to work in increments. Phase 3 would be the “new normal”, she said. It would still include suggestions that vulnerable people avoid crowded spaces, and businesses maintain high standards of hygiene and more space between people to prevent asymptomatic spread of the virus.

Facing the challenge

A phased reopening of the economy is not without its challenges to businesses, workers, and families. On the other side of this pandemic, our lives will be changed. We have the opportunity to make improvements in our lives, our workplaces, our schools, and our economy. The end result will depend on how individuals assume responsibility for their actions and their ability to embrace change.

If you are a business owner, you’re probably thinking strategically about how your business can operate successfully going forward. Crowd limits, supply and demand uncertainties, and social distancing are a few of the practices that will continue long after businesses are reopening. You may be thinking about different ways to offer your services or get your products to customers.

Your customers may be thinking about the alternative ways they would like to receive your services or products. 

Your workforce is likely thinking about these alternatives as well, especially if they were successfully transitioned to a virtual work-from-home environment.

You are likely to be considering whether your customers and workforce and whether a return to the status quo would be desirable or profitable, even if it were possible.  

As the economy reopens, we are likely to see a redesign of public spaces—at work, in schools and college campuses, places of worship, and entertainment venues. We are likely to see changes in how we communicate, teach, and learn that involve an increased use of technology, video-con


Our mission at e-Health is to support the health and well-being of individuals and small-business. For additional coronavirus advice, health tips, and information on coverage, please visit the eHealth COVID-19 resource center.

For information and guidelines specific to the coronavirus outbreak, visit cdc.gov

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

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