State coalitions forming

In an effort to plan for reopening their economies, several states have announced regional collaboration efforts. This includes New York and six other Northeastern states, and California, Oregon, and Washington in the west. Earlier this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom outlined a framework to reopen the western economies, predicated on six key indicators:

  • expanding testing to identify and isolate those infected
  • maintaining vigilance to protect seniors and high risk persons
  • ensuring a “myriad or protective gear” for hospitals
  • collaborating with academia on treatments
  • redrawing regulations for continued social distancing at schools and businesses
  • developing new enforcement mechanisms to reinstate stay-at-home orders

No timetable has been set for this framework. While the northeastern states have not yet released anything, we will provide that information once we have it.

Federal presentation

Following the states’ effort, the Trump administration issued a PowerPoint presentation yesterday to assist state and local leaders in making decisions to reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While President Trump has expressed his desire to reopen the nation’s economy by May 1, the presentation places the onus on governors to lift restrictions. Social distancing and other measures designed to minimize the spread of the virus currently affect more than 90% of Americans.

The administration’s presentation contains a three-phase approach. Phase 1 contains “gating” criteria—a 14-day period showing a downward trajectory of cases and symptoms in the population, where hospitals are able to support all patients and can provide robust testing for healthcare workers. The next phases begin when the state shows no evidence of rebound and satisfies the gating criteria for a second 14-day period (phase 2) and third 14-day period (phase 3). We summarize the guidance for employers below:

  • Phase 1: Employers should continue to encourage telework whenever possible, but workers can return to the workplace in phases. Specific venues like dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting venues may open on the condition of strict adherence to social distancing protocols, and fitness centers may reopen with strict adherence to sanitation protocols.
  • Phase 2: Employers can continue to encourage telework and enforce moderate social distancing protocols, but non-essential travel can resume. Bars and schools may also reopen.
  • Phase 3: Employers can resume unrestricted staffing of worksites. Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can also resume.

We will be closely tracking these issues and stand ready to give guidance on how to comply with the new orders and return to normal.