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COVID-19: Open or Close

When is it safe to stop social distancing?

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  • May 1, 2020: Cities and states in the U.S. have begun reopening nonessential businesses and easing social distancing guidelines.
  • Nonessential businesses include gyms, hair salons, and movie theatres. [NPR]
  • Experts warn of a deadly second wave if states open too early; open too late and economic recovery is at risk.
  • When is it safe for cities and states to reopen?

Who's open?

As of July 21, 2020



SOCIAL: To contain a pandemic, early and strict measures pay off later. [National GeographicAccording to Pew Research Center,

  • 66% of Americans fear the state government will lift restrictions too quickly;
  • 32% of Americans believe restrictions will not happen quickly enough. 

CIVICS: Many of the states reopening May 1 do not meet White House's guidelines for "Phase 1" of reopening. ​​​​​​When is it appropriate for the president and the federal government to step in?


Federalism calls for power to reside in the hands of the president and federal government during a crisis that crosses domestic and international borders, threatens public safety and the national economy. [Stanford Law]



The economy

Cities, states, and countries are experiencing a devastating economic crash with millions out of work and unable to pay for daily expenses.


Many economic experts warn the worst is yet to come. [NPR]


Leaders and citizens are eager to get back to work to curb the crash and return to normal life. [Reuters]


Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.) has said that deaths from COVID-19 are “the lesser of two evils” when comparing the harm to economic and American life. [The Los Angeles Times]


“We are crushing the economy,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. “There are more important things than living.” [The Los Angeles Times]



Let us live

Some feel the U.S. government should not have the power to force individuals to live a specific way.


Some feel government leaders are conducting a "nanny state" and that individuals should be allowed to make their own choice regarding their health. [NPR


One Utah protestor said, "Quarantine is for sick people; you lock sick people away. But when you lock healthy people away, that's tyranny." [NPR]



Trust us

State leaders assure their citizens that they will reopen the economy in a "responsible way." [NPR]


We need a vaccine

Scientists argue that without a vaccine, the virus is expected to "circulate for years." [The New York Times]


About 100 research groups are rushing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. [Associated Press]



We need more testing

Scientists argue the next best alternative to a vaccine is antibody testing.


Antibody testing shows who is immune to the virus. This test is known as a "serological test."[National Geographic


The CDC has developed successful laboratory serological blood tests. Serological tests identify who is immune to the disease. Knowing who is immune "clears" people to return to work. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]


The CDC has not made these tests available to the public. They are testing performance for commercial use.  [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Another form of testing is identification or tests that show if you are infected with COVID-1 or not. Faster, more readily available testing leads to faster treatment and recovery.


Cities in states reopening and closed continue to struggle with access to testing. [South Florida Sun Sentinel



We haven't reached the peak

May 4, 2020: The U.S. has not flattened the arc of confirmed COVID-19 cases. [Associated Press]


Health experts warn that easing social restrictions without flattening the curve will increase cases and death rates. [The New York Times]


  • Apr. 28, 2020: PM Ardern declared New Zealand has "won" with only a handful of new cases reported. New Zealand is still taking strict precautions to slowly reopen, following a four-phase guideline. [New Zealand Herald
  • New Zealand Prime Minister (PM) Jacinda Ardern forced early lockdown on the entire country in late March. [NPR]
  • Apr. 30, 2020: Armed protestors in Michigan and Colorado demanded the state reopen. [The Guardian]
  • May 4, 2020: After two months of strict measures, Italy has begun to ease lockdown measures. [BBC]
  • May 4, 2020: The U.S. has not flattened the arc of COVID-19 cases, with many states reopening. [Associated Press]
  • May 7, 2020: The Trump administration will not release detailed guidelines from CDC scientists on when to reopen the country, forcing officials to give the document to the press. [Associated Press]
  • May 20, 2020: The CDC released guidelines for reopening. The guidelines are more relaxed than the first version that was "buried" by the White House because President Trump believed it to be “very tough and expensive.” [Associated Press]


  • Many around the world are asking, do Americans understand how poorly they are doing managing the spread of COVID-19? Read more.
  • The official death toll may be an undercount. Read more from The New York Times.
  • The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic ended after a two-year fight. [National Geographic]
  • See how deadly second waves were in American cities during 1918 "Spanish flu" pandemic from National Geographic.
  • Study shows President Trump's core base of supporters is heavily impacted by COVID-19. 
  • “The health risk is not just to the individual who is out and about. It’s to everyone else in that community,” said Katherine Baicker, a health economics policy expert at the University of Chicago. “And given travel patterns and movement around the globe, the community is very big.” [The Los Angeles Times]
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