Americans should be proud of the progress our country has made against the coronavirus. The strict measures we have taken have slowed the spread of the pandemic and kept our health-care system from being overwhelmed. However, these gains have come at a severe cost to our economy, our livelihoods, and our communities. The relief packages have been helpful and necessary, but what Americans really need is to get back to their jobs.
Reopening our economy does not mean ignoring the virus. We can, and must, continue to be smart about the pandemic while getting back to work. I recently met with Governor Tate Reeves, who has been a great partner in managing the response to the crisis. He and other governors have had to balance aggressively fighting the pandemic while getting our economy back on track.
At the national level, President Trump has released a plan advising states to reduce the restrictions in three phases. I am eager to see this plan implemented in ways that best suit each state.
A Gradual Return to Normal Life
The White House recommends that states meet certain conditions before opening up their economies again. These include having a downward trend in COVID-19 cases for 14 days and stable hospital conditions.
In Phase One of the plan, employees unable to work remotely may return to work gradually. Large venues like restaurants, movie theaters, sporting arenas, gyms, and churches are allowed to reopen while following social distancing guidelines. Elective surgeries may resume on an outpatient basis. However, all vulnerable individuals, including the elderly, will need to continue staying home.
If states do not see a rebound in COVID-19 cases, the President recommends starting Phase Two. In this phase, schools and organized youth facilities, like camps and daycares, have permission to start up again. Non-essential travel is allowed to resume and bars may host customers at a reduced capacity. Employees will still be encouraged to work from home if at all possible, and social distancing will need to continue in all public spaces.
If there is still no rebound in cases, the President recommends Phase Three. At this point, every worker may return to the workplace and vulnerable individuals are permitted to go out in public again. Large venues are allowed to operate with reduced social distancing, and senior care facilities and hospitals may once again welcome visitors.
More Testing Is Needed
To make this reopening and recovery possible, we need a huge expansion of testing. This will allow health-care professionals to diagnose and isolate those who are infected so that the vast majority of Americans can get back to work and resume their social lives safely. Recently Congress approved $25 billion to help expand testing as part of the latest coronavirus relief package.
As our country ramps up testing and private companies race to develop vaccines and effective treatments, we can begin returning to normal life while taking precautions to minimize risks. The conditions-based approach developed by the Trump administration and being implemented by states like Mississippi will go a long way toward getting America on the road to recovery.
# # #
Submitted by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker.