A closer look at the CDC’s guidelines for reopening the nation

Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

In a 60-page report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released over the weekend detailed guidelines for states as they work to reopen their economies after months of quarantining due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The lengthy document breaks down best practices for multiple sectors to follow, including transportation, schools, places of worship, restaurants and nonessential businesses, albeit many of these have already partially reopened over the past couple of weeks, including in the Santa Clarita Valley as Los Angeles County and California ease their stay-at-home orders. 

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“The plan for reopening America outlines a three-phased approach for reducing community mitigation measures while protecting vulnerable populations,” reads the document. “The phased approach can be implemented statewide or community-by-community at governors’ discretion. The guidelines propose the use of six ‘gating’ indicators to assess when to move through from one mitigation phase to another.”

The gating indicators include decreases in newly identified COVID-19 cases and emergency department visits related to the virus, as well as having a “robust testing program.” 

The CDC’s report read that a possibility of recrudescence, or renewed activity, in some communities does exist as they progress through the reopening stages. 

“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 agency said. “The decision to reinstate community mitigation strategies will undoubtedly be very difficult and will require careful thought to define an evidence-based monitoring strategy and specific guidance for these decisions.”

Here’s a look at some of the sectors mentioned: 


Based on the latest guidelines, mass transportation will be among the areas with the most changes in an effort to help prevent the virus from spreading any further. 

In the first of three phases, ridership should be restricted to “essential critical” infrastructure workers, and in the following stages to maintain social distancing between riders and employees. 

The CDC recommends that every other row of seats is closed off to riders, ask passengers to enter and exit through different doors and install physical barriers such as sneeze guards and partitions at staffed kiosks and transit vehicles. Personal protective equipment, including face masks, must be worn by employees and passengers. 


Schools and child-care programs, which can reopen in the second phase, will need to implement several steps, such as enhanced physical distancing measures, the CDC recommended. 

Some measures include requiring face coverings for staff and older students, conducting daily temperature checks, providing hygiene supplies for students, having students eat their lunch in classrooms and keeping the same group of students and staff together. 

Some school districts have already started considering limiting the number of students they would physically have per school. 


While several businesses have started to reopen, many more remain closed. The CDC provided recommendations for employers with workers at high risk, as well as for small businesses. 

Among those steps to scale up operations for those with high-risk employees include encouraging telework options, minimizing their contact with customers and other workers and to encourage other entities to share the same workspace to follow the guidelines. 

Small businesses should identify a coordinator who will be tasked with all COVID-19-related issues and their impact at the workplace, establish emergency communication plans and prepare continuity plans for significant absenteeism, supply chain disruptions and other changes. 

To read the full report, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/php/CDC-Activities-Initiatives-for-COVID-19-Response.pdf

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