These States Are Reopening Amid Coronavirus Pandemic 1

In an attempt to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, most U.S. states have imposed extraordinary measures to restrict social contact, forcing millions of Americans to remain in their homes.

But several weeks into these public health orders urging residents to stay home, close down their businesses, and wear face masks to stop the spread of a virus predicted to claim between 100,000 and 200,000 lives, Americans have started to protest the restrictions and demand a return to normal life. Over the last week, protestors in several states spurred a contentious national debate over public health versus economic well-being, pushing some states to lift stay-at-home restrictions—despite continuous reports of new coronavirus cases.

President Donald Trump, who has pushed to lift restrictions sooner rather than later, has provided governors with three-phase guidelines to guide their decisions on reopening.

The guidelines say that, in order to start lifting restrictions, states should have a two-week downward trend in new cases, enough hospital supplies and beds for incoming patients, and adequate testing measures to avoid a resurgence of the deadly virus. 

One key roadblock to re-opening, public health experts say, is that testing is not as widely implemented as it needs to be to reopen non-essential businesses without prompting a second wave of coronavirus cases. In some parts of the country, cases continue to climb. President Trump dismissed those concerns during his April 21 coronavirus briefing.

“Some states have far more capacity than they actually understand,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force said. Social distancing has been successful and for that reason “we can think about reopening America,” he added. But he pleaded with governors and officials to do it “in a measured way.” 

Despite the White House’s roadmap, and discouragement from health experts about removing lockdown measures too soon, these states are starting to reopen with varying degrees of caution. 

GEORGIA

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on April 20 introduced a plan “to incrementally and safely reopen sectors” of the economy, saying that the state’s Department of Health had reported optimistic numbers. Trump said he disagreed “very strongly” with Kemp’s decision. Fauci advised Kemp “not to do that.” 

“Reports of emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses are declining, documented COVID-19 cases have flattened and appear to be declining, and we have seen declining emergency room visits in general,” Kemp said, calling the change a “small step moving forward.”

The reopening plan states:

  • Gyms, fitness centers, barbershops, hair and nail salons, body art studios, bowling alleys, and massage parlors can reopen on April 24, as long as they follow social distancing and “regular sanitation” rules.
  • Church services can resume at places of worship with strict social distancing.
  • Theaters, private social clubs, and dine-in restaurants can resume on April 27, as long as residents adhere to social distancing.
  • Bars, clubs, and amusement parks will remain closed.

SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced an executive order on April 20 to allow most retail and department stores to reopen with social distancing, with the exception of hardware and home-improvement stores.

“In light of the common sense being shown by the great people of South Carolina, we are ready to take some steps that will help South Carolina assure that our economic health is as strong as our public health,” McMaster said.

The re-opening plan states:

  • Retail and department stores can reopen on April 22, allowing curbside pickup and five customers per 1,000 square feet.
  • State beaches, public piers, docks, and wharfs will be open to the public.
  • Hardware and home-improvement stores will remain closed.

TENNESSEE

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he would not extend the “safer-at-home” order, already lighter than restrictions in some states, beyond April 30. “The economic difficulty that’s been created by this, it has been devastating to our state, and the sooner we can begin to change that picture, the better,” Lee said.

The re-opening plan states:

  • Some shops will be allowed to open their doors April 27 but “the vast majority of businesses” will be able to do so May 1. It is not immediately clear which business can reopen in the first wave.
  • State parks will be opened on April 24, but residents must adhere to social distancing.

TEXAS 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a series of executive orders April 17 that would allow stores open for retail-to-go starting April 24. He said that after seeing “glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us,” he created a team of medical advisers and business leaders to figure out how to safely reopen the state’s economy. 

“They will work together to develop a medical architecture to comprehensively test and trace COVID-19 that will enable Texas to gradually and safely begin the process of returning to work and returning to other activities while we wait for the immunizations that will end the threat of COVID-19,” Abbott said, adding that additional openings will be announced on April 27. 

The reopening plan states:

  • Texas parks will open, though with social distancing restrictions in place and gatherings of more than five people prohibited.
  • Schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year.
  • Hospitals in the state will be allowed to perform elective procedures starting April 21, though they must reserve 25 percent of their beds for COVID-19 patients.
  • Retailers will be allowed to offer “retail-to-go” or curbside pickup to customers starting on April 24.

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on April 22 his plan to reopen the state and non-essential businesses in three phases—with the first beginning on April 24 to allow personal care businesses to reopen. 

“We are making decisions for Oklahomans that are based on the data in our state and to protect the health of Oklahomans,” Stitt said.

  • Personal care businesses, such as hair salons, pet grooming studios, and tattoo parlors, can reopen from April 24 with social distancing guidelines in place.
  • Elective surgeries will restart on April 24.
  • State parks will be open on April 24.
  • Restaurants, gyms, churches, and movie theaters will be allowed to open from May 1, provided hospitals have adequate capacity to treat a possible second surge.
  • Bars and schools will remain closed until further notice.

VERMONT

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced April 17 that the state will begin a phased approach to returning to public life, authorizing low-density workplaces like construction sites to resume operations with no more than two employees on-site at a time, according to NBC 5

“These forecasts show we can continue to slow the number of new COVID-19 cases if we continue to stay vigilant, meaning staying home, avoiding large gatherings, staying six feet away from others, using a cloth face covering when in public and washing our hands,” Scott said. “But what these trends also show is that, with the right precautions, we can take small steps to get more Vermonters back to work and avoid a spike in cases that would put lives at risk.”

The reopening plan states:

  • Vermont retailers were allowed to reopen from April 17, but customers can only pick up goods curbside.
  • Services operated by a single worker, such as realtors, attorneys, or property managers, can resume operations.
  • Outdoor or construction jobs can resume with no more than two employees on-site at a time.
  • The state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order will remain in place until May 15, encouraging individuals to limit non-essential travel.

FLORIDA

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on April 17 that the state’s beaches and parks could reopen if done safely, and Jacksonville was the first city to take him up on the offer. Florida’s beaches became a flashpoint of coronavirus controversy when images of carefree spring breakers defying social distancing guidelines shocked the nation. Many tourists later fell ill, and Florida’s officials faced criticism for allowing the beaches to remain open.

“Do it in a good way,” DeSantis told residents ahead of the partial reopening. “Do it in a safe way.”

The reopening plan states:

  • Local officials can reopen state beaches for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, and surfing. Groups of 50 people or more are still banned.
  • Church services are allowed.

OHIO

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said April 22 that the state’s “shelter-in-place” order will not extend past April 30, and he was hoping to resume public life as early as May 1. It comes as Ohio’s largest prison has suffered an extreme coronavirus outbreak, with three-quarters of inmates testing positive.

The re-opening plan states:

  • Companies that can set protocols for protecting employees and customers can reopen on May 1.
  • Schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

MONTANA

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced on April 22 a phased reopening for the state once the stay-at-home order expires on April 24.

“There are very few states in the country that can say they have seen the number of positive cases decline over these past weeks. Montana can say that because, together, we have made that decline in cases possible,” Bullock said. 

The reopening plan states:

  • Churches will be allowed to reopen with social distancing measures from April 26.
  • Schools are allowed to reopen from May 7. 
  • Retail businesses can become operational on or after April 27, but they must limit capacity and maintain strict physical distancing. 
  • Restaurants, bars, breweries, and distilleries can begin providing some services from May 4.
  • Movie theaters, gyms, and other places where social distancing is difficult will remain closed.

IDAHO

Idaho Gov. Brad Little extended a statewide stay-at-home order to April 30 and said some non-essential businesses can reopen after that if they “prepare operational plans” that include limits on the number of people in a business at a time.

The order excludes some “non-essential” businesses like nightclubs, bars, and restaurants for dine-in, gyms, hair and nail salons, and entertainment centers, his office said.

MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said on April 17 that the state will not renew its shelter-in-place order beyond April 27, and that non-essential business will be allowed to open for curbside pickup and delivery. No further details were released.

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota does not have a formal stay-at-home order but all non-essential businesses have been closed. Gov. Doug Burgum said that, from May 1, some businesses can partially reopen but schools are closed “until further notice.”