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COVID-19: Open or Close

When should we 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 6, 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 Trump administration. 


  • 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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