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Reopening

So ... spring 2021 is here and summer is coming. So when can we get back to doing things in public? When can we go back to school? When can we meet up with friends and family again? When can we go to concerts and ball games? When can we get back to normal, or whatever passes for normal now?
Well, the easy answer is:

  1. It’s complicated;
  2. It depends on where you live and what the facility is; and
  3. It’s all subject to change.
Choosing Safer Activities
Accessible Link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-in-activities.html

After more than a year of quarantining and masking and working from home and learning from home and streaming every episode of every movie and TV series ever made, nearly everyone is itching badly for this pandemic to be over.
In mid-March 2021, two states, Texas and Mississippi, declared themselves 100% open and dropped all pandemic restrictions. And while many other states and municipalities are proceeding with much greater degrees of caution, with the increasing number of Americans having been vaccinated, the opening up of everything is drawing near. In the last week of April alone:

  • The CDC revised its masking and social-gathering guidelines.
  • Disneyland reopened to California residents only, with limited capacity, and masking, distancing and indoor ride-line capacity in effect.
  • The Atlanta Braves announced that they’ll go back to full capacity at their ball park.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to have the city fully reopened for business by June 30.
  • Speaking of NYC, producers of several Broadway shows announced that they plan for the lights to go on and the curtains to rise by early fall. Some of the larger shows are hoping to be back by Labor Day weekend.

However, the explosion of COVID-19 in India in April and May, with global-record numbers of both new cases and deaths, stressed the continuing need for caution. As Delta Airlines was reopening its middle seats for booking effective May 1 – the last major airline to do so – the TSA extended its mask mandate for plane, train and bus passengers through mid-September.

Here’s a quick breakdown of reopening agendas for schools, offices, restaurants and entertainment venues. And again, everything is subject to change. Keep paying attention to your respective local and state news.

Schools

Most states (and parents and students) want to reopen schools and are looking for the safest and quickest way to do it. And the Biden administration has made safely reopening schools a priority of its COVID-19 strategy.
Some districts have partially opened to in-school classes and some have gone full speed ahead. Regardless, these are the guidelines the CDC has formulated.

  • Full in-person learning is recommended in areas where the CDC reports fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in a week and a 7-day positivity rate of less than 8%. Schools that fall under this guideline are still strongly suggested to continue precautions: masks, hand-washing, cleaning facilities and 6-foot distancing.
  • Hybrid learning, with some students in school and others still online at home, is recommended when a community has 50-100 new weekly cases per 100,000 people or a 7-day positivity rate of 8-10%.
  • Full-time remote learning is recommended for middle- and high-school students in areas with at least 100 new cases per 100,000 people or a 7-day positivity rate of 10% or higher.

And remember how we said everything is subject to change? Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Congress in late March that the CDC is looking into shortening its social-distance recommendations for schools from 6 feet to 3 feet. This comes in response to a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases; researchers compared COVID-19 infection rates in Massachusetts schools with different physical distancing requirements, and found that 3 feet was as safe as 6 feet is everyone is masked. So ... stay tuned.

See YSPH's Public Health Guidance for Reopening Schools

Offices

The CDC formulated guidelines in May 2020, revised at year’s end, for offices to reopen safely. Some companies went back to business as usual, while others were just slowly, tentatively beginning to return to brick-and-mortar offices a year after the pandemic closed down the U.S.

There’s an extensive section on the organization’s website with guidelines for reopening and conducting business as safely as possible. To cut a long story short, basically, it boils down to the same common-sense practices most of us have been following the past year: masks; physical barriers between employees wherever possible (and using tape and signs to keep people 6 feet apart otherwise), increasing circulation of outdoor air, purifying water systems; staggering shift times, start times and break times; and giving incentives employees who use public transportation to use less public forms of transportation.

Restaurants/bars

As mentioned, every state is handling reopenings differently; Texas and Mississippi, for example, have eliminated all restrictions. Connecticut, Yale’s home state, made a huge push to reopen as soon as possible, but with an eye on safety.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced that all restrictions for state businesses will be phased out by May 19. As of May 1, outdoor bars were able to reopen without the requirement that they serve food, and indoor bars will be able to do the same on May 19. Also as of May 1, the 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars was pushed back to midnight, though masking, distancing, cleansing and disinfecting protocols remain in place. And barring a spike in COVID-19 cases and assuming vaccination rates continue, the state’s remaining COVID restrictions will be lifted in mid-May, except that masks will be required indoors where social distancing isn’t possible.

Again, as is the case with restaurants, states are reopening entertainment and recreational facilities at their own pace – and we can’t say enough that everything is subject to change – so keep an eye on your local news and governmental websites. And again, let’s look at how Yale’s home state, Connecticut, is handling this.

As with restaurants, as of March 19, Connecticut has eliminated capacity limits for retail stores, libraries, personal services, indoor recreation venues (except theaters, which will remain at 50% capacity), gyms/fitness centers, museums, aquariums, zoos, offices and houses of worship. In addition, social and recreational gatherings at private residences were open to 25 people indoors, 100 outdoors; at commercial venues, the number was 100 people indoors, 200 outdoors. But all capacity will go away on May 19.

Amusement parks were allowed to reopen April 2, with no capacity restrictions. Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury reopened April 24, and Lake Compounce in Bristol, the nation’s oldest continuously operated amusement park (175 years), planned to reopen May 8, with the water parks at both facilities slated to open Memorial Day weekend.

Outdoor event facilities were increase to 50% capacity, maximum 10,000 people, while indoor stadiums were open to 10% capacity. Again, those restrictions go away May 19. To that effect, concert venues and some music clubs have ramped up bookings to resume some sort of schedule for this summer. In fact, the state’s newest music venue, New Haven’s Westville Music Bowl, opened April 30 with two nights of shows by Gov’t. Mule; seating was limited.

See YSPH's guidance on Sports and The Arts for more information.

Entertainment/recreational/other facilities

Again, as is the case with restaurants, states are reopening entertainment and recreational facilities at their own pace – and we can’t say enough that everything is subject to change – so keep an eye on your local news and governmental websites. And again, let’s look at how Yale’s home state, Connecticut, is handling this.

As with restaurants, as of March 19, Connecticut has eliminated capacity limits for retail stores, libraries, personal services, indoor recreation venues (except theaters, which will remain at 50% capacity), gyms/fitness centers, museums, aquariums, zoos, offices and houses of worship. In addition, social and recreational gatherings at private residences will be open to 25 people indoors, 100 outdoors; at commercial venues, they’ll be open to 100 people indoors, 200 outdoors.

Amusement parks will be allowed to reopen April 2. Outdoor event facilities can increase to 50% capacity, maximum 10,000 people, while indoor stadiums will be open to 10% capacity. To that effect, concert venues are beginning to ramp up bookings to resume some sort of schedule for this summer.

See YSPH's guidance on Sports and The Arts.


rev. 5.3.2021