CDC Releases Guidance for Reopening America

May 15, 2020 Updated: May 15, 2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its reopening America guidance documents to help schools, workplaces, and other spaces safely reopen after widespread shutdowns across the country to slow the spread of the CCP virus.

The CDC guidance documents include decision tools designed for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare centers, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants. Six “decision trees” present yes-or-no scenarios to help the businesses and organizations determine whether they are ready to reopen.

“These six decision trees are to assist leaders of these entities in thinking through health considerations and making operational decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a CDC spokesman said in a statement, Reuters reported. The outlet also reported that the CDC said it may issue more guidance as needed.

The CDC guidance documents encourage businesses and organizations to ask that employees wear masks to work in most cases.

Earlier, the health agency had recommended that people wear face coverings while in enclosed public spaces as a precaution to reduce the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.

reopening business
A cafe staff serves a customer from behind a plastic shield at SaddleCreek Coffee during the phased reopening from the CCP virus restrictions in Cave Creek, Arizona, on May 11, 2020. (Nicole Neri/Reuters)

The latest CDC guidance documents also encourage businesses and organizations to coordinate with state and local health officials in making decisions about how to safely reopen.

For example, in deciding whether a restaurant or bar should open, the CDC decision trees asks if reopening will be consistent with state and local orders, and whether the business is ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness. If the answer is no, restaurants and bars are advised not to open.

The reopening guidance was earlier leaked to the media when it was still in “draft form,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said last week.

At the time, the guidance had not been vetted through an interagency review process, Redfield said, adding that the process is “an iterative effort to ensure effective, clear guidance is presented to the American people.”

“I had not seen a version of the guidance incorporating interagency and task force input and therefore was not yet comfortable releasing a final work product,” he also said at the time.

reopening businesses
Rich’s Barber Shop in Waukesha, Wis. on May 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The CDC’s latest guidance relates to another earlier set of guidelines that the Trump administration released on April 17. The three-phase guidelines broadly outline how Americans can begin making decisions towards easing social distancing restrictions.

Trump said at the time that the final decision as to how reopening would be implemented is up to governors, because every U.S. state is different.

“Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that needs the diverse circumstances of their own states,” he said.

“If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that and if they believe it is time to reopen, we will provide them the freedom and guidance to accomplish that task and very quickly, depending on what they want to do.

“We are also encouraging states to work together to harmonize their regional efforts,” the president added.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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