The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of documents on Thursday designed to provide guidance on how child care centers, schools, restaurants and bars, and other establishments could begin the process of reopening in the face of the coronavirus. The direction comes after calls from lawmakers and state officials mounted for the CDC to weigh in on how regions should reopen their economies.
The "decision tools" the agency released recommend that all workplaces hold off on reopening unless they are ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness, including those 65 and older and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions.
If an organization can protect workers and goes forward with reopening, the CDC recommends intensifying cleaning and sanitation and establishing health and safety actions "as feasible," such as hand-washing, wearing a cloth face covering and social distancing. The documents also advise employers to encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick.
Schools, child care centers and camps should not reopen, the guidelines stipulate, unless they are able to implement coronavirus screening protocols, evaluating employees and children daily for symptoms and potential past exposures to COVID-19.
Restaurants, bars, mass transit and other workplaces are encouraged to implement similar monitoring systems for their employees. In particular, mass transit agencies should not increase services unless they can put in place measures to protect employees at high risk, according to the CDC.
The flowchart-like documents released by the CDC also ask businesses, schools and workplaces to first and foremost consider whether adherence with the agency's reopening guidelines is consistent with state and local stay-at-home orders.
"It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners
to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community," the documents say.
Compliance with the CDC direction will depend on whether states adopt the decision tools into their own local policies — and whether the Trump administration supports and promotes the agency's guidelines.
Last week, The Associated Press obtained an earlier draft of the CDC decision tool documents, which at that time also contained guidance for faith communities. The AP also reported that earlier version would have stipulated that summer camps reopen only if they limited attendance to people who lived in that community.
Those earlier documents did not issue guidance for schools, which the agency specifically addressed in Thursday's version of the decision tools.