Shutting down the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most nerve-racking moments in our nation’s history. The nation had to shut down to save lives. As of May 17, 2020, there were more than 1,467,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 88,700 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Now comes the big question – how do we reopen the country safely?
Countries are Opening Up –
A number of countries had locked their doors and have since opened up. Many of these re-opened countries, such as Singapore, South Korea, and Germany, have seen a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
All it takes is one infected person to ignite – or reignite – an outbreak. At the beginning of May, a 29-year-old South Korean man visited five nightclubs in Seoul. Throughout the night, he partied with approximately 7,200 other people. He tested positive for COVID-19 five days later, which happed to be the day South Korea lifted their restrictions. As of May 11, nearly 80 new cases have been linked to the man’s outing.
South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case one day before the U.S. The South Korean government was aggressive in its testing, tracing, and isolation efforts. It worked. On May 11, South Korea had only 11,000 infections and over 350 deaths, compared with 1.3 million cases and more than 80,000 dead in the United States. South Korea imposed strict guidelines that involved keeping sick people at home, maintaining a 6-foot distance between individuals, hand washing, and proper ventilation of homes. Officials encouraged older adults to either stay at home or avoid crowded spaces.
A number of European countries are reopening, but at different paces. Most businesses in Italy opened on May 18, while Spain only slightly eased restrictions on their least-infected islands.
The New York Times offers an interactive map that provides current information on the current restrictions imposed by each state. On May 18, four states were completely shut down and two more promised to reopen soon; others were either reopening state-wide or reopening only certain regions of their states.
Nearly all states impose restrictions on businesses, such as allowing fewer customers on the premises at one time, requiring masks for workers and customers, and enforcing social distancing.
How to Stay Safe as the United States Reopens
Reopening the country relies largely on how well each individual practices smart safety guidelines. There has been some confusion recently about what is safe and what is not. Fortunately, the CDC offers safety guidelines for both individuals and for businesses.
Avoid crowds of 10 or more
Avoid crowds of 10 or more people, counting children. States may limit occupancy based on a business’s square footage. For example, Illinois limits occupancy to 50 percent of the store’s capacity. To stay safe, look for stores, businesses, and events that enforce crowd limits.
Avoid touching your face
Infections often spread when people touch their faces with unwashed hands, thereby introducing coronavirus or other contagions to their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds; use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available. Carry hand sanitizer when you go out, just in case the business does not offer it at the door.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Avoid being in the same room with a sick person, especially if you cannot wear PPE. Stay more than 6 feet away from people who are sick, even if they do not have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Testing has not been widely available, so many people may have been sick with the disease and not known it.
Wear a facemask
Everyone over the age of 2 years should wear a cloth facemask when out in public and in addition to social distancing.
Maintain a 6-foot distance from people you don’t live with
Stay six feet away from those outside your household, even if they do not feel ill. It is possible to have and spread COVID-19 and not experience symptoms, which means you can unknowingly spread the disease to others and they can accidentally give it to you.
We can begin to reopen our stores and start attending some events, but we must do it safely. Our lives, and the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors, depend on it.
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Frank Magliochetti owes his professional success to his expertise in two areas: medicine and finance. After obtaining a BS in pharmacy from Northeastern University, he stayed on to enroll in the Masters of Toxicology program. He later specialized in corporate finance, receiving an MBA from The Sawyer School of Business at Suffolk University. His educational background includes completion of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and the General Management Program at Stanford Business School. Frank Magliochetti has held senior positions at Baxter International, Kontron Instruments, Haemonetics Corporation, and Sandoz. Since 2000, he has been a managing partner at Parcae Capital, where he focuses on financial restructuring and interim management services for companies in the healthcare, media, and alternative energy industries. Earlier this year, he was appointed chairman of the board at Grace Health Technology, a company providing an enterprise solution for the laboratory environment.