By the Duane Morris Team
With conflicting messages from various sources and different levels of government, states have been taking action to reopen or at least to set the groundwork for reopening when they decide the time is right. Many businesses and individuals are eager to get back to life as normal, while just as many and even more are ready to return to life outside of home, but only if it is safe to do so.
States have decided to address the problem in varying ways:
On Tuesday, April 28, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) outlined the requirements for the state to move out of its current stay-at-home order and allow schools and businesses to reopen. While Newsom expects school to open in July, he publicized on Twitter his broad four-stage plan to modify his stay-at-home order until completely lifted. Like other progressive, heavily Democratic, coastal states, California’s plan focuses on ensuring public safety and lowering COVID-19 numbers before things begin reopening.
Despite the pandemic, California has struggled with social distancing in open spaces like beaches, especially in the face of warm, sunny weather. Governor Newsom said on Tuesday that even though he unveiled his reopening plan, the state was still weeks away from reopening.
On Friday, April 24, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) responded to public demand for hair and nail salons, barber shops, massage therapists, and gyms to reopen. The reopening was the first major step away from the statewide stay-at-home order that was in place.
On Tuesday, April 28, Georgia restaurants reopened and had to adhere to a set of 39 guidelines set by the state government. Many restaurants chose not to reopen due to the difficulty and lack of clarity of the guidance.
Democratic Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has become a prominent critic of Kemp’s reopening actions, noting that the Georgia death rate has continued to rise. In addition to criticizing the reopening, Bottoms has maintained that Atlanta is still under lockdown.
Randolph, Terrell, Early, Dougherty, and Mitchell Counties in southwestern Georgia are among the counties with the highest rates of infection and deaths in the country.
Earlier, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy (D) laid out a 6-point plan, or “road map” as he referred to it, to reopening New Jersey. However, despite laying out these recovery benchmarks or principles, neither Murphy nor his administration gave any date for reopening, saying instead that ending lockdown is still several weeks away. The first Principal of Murphy’s reopening roadmap says the state must “demonstrate sustained reductions in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with 14-day trend line showing appreciable and sustained drop in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and other metrics reflecting decreasing burden of disease.”
On April 28, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 131, which created a commission charged with advising the administration on the pathway to reopening New Jersey and jump-starting the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission, known as the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission is compromised of 21 members from various areas of experience deemed critical to the state’s recovery. Industries represented outside of the health and science fields on the commission range from policy and academia to financial systems, technology, and the manufacturing industries. On Wednesday, April 29, Murphy took the additional step to reopen state parks on May 2.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) made headlines with her decision not to shut down her state, even as President Trump and his administration recommended closures. Despite not issuing a statewide shutdown, Noem urged all South Dakotans to take the COVID virus seriously. She ordered nonessential businesses to allow employees to work from home, placed a limit on social gatherings, restricted restaurants to offer only take-out options and told vulnerable groups to take extreme precautions.
Despite receiving praise from politicians and locals alike for her decision, a South Dakota Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant has been closed indefinitely with more than 545 cases linked to the plant – making up 55% of the state’s total cases. To date, there have been 2,373 confirmed cases of COVID in South Dakota, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people.
On Tuesday, April 28, Governor Noem released her plan for getting the state “back to normal.” While warning that the state could see an uptick in cases if residents do not adhere to precautions and take preventative measures like social distancing, she said that even though she did not want to infringe on personal freedoms, she was willing to take action by county if particular regions saw an uptick.