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CDC releases ‘Opening Up America Again’ benchmarks

By Staff | May 20, 2020

As states begin reopening efforts, the Centers for Disease Control has released a 60-page summary of the “CDC’s initiatives, activities, and tools in support of the Whole-of-Government response to COVID-19.”

The document, “CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again,” outlines a series of benchmarks as the country moves forward.

“The plan for reopening America outlines a three-phased approach for reducing community mitigation measures while protecting vulnerable populations,” its introduction states. “The phased approach can be implemented statewide or community-by-community at governors’ discretion. The guidelines propose the use of six ‘gating’ indicators to assess when to move through from one mitigation phase to another.”

Reopening times and methods should be based on local conditions, the CDC states.

“Surveillance and hospitalization indicators can aid public health and government officials in their decisions when to reopen communities. The disease occurrence and hospital gating indicators in the Opening Up America Again guideline provide states and communities insight into the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in their jurisdiction. These indicators are part of the broad assessment jurisdictions should undertake when deciding when and how to adjust community mitigation strategies for COVID-19.”

Safety protocols should remain in effect, the plan states.

“As businesses and other organizations gradually open after the COVID-19-related slowdown, they will need to consider a variety of measures for keeping people safe,” the introduction summary states. “These considerations include practices for scaling up operations, safety actions (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, social distancing), monitoring possible reemergence of illness, and maintaining health operations.”

Interim guidance for helping establishments with these steps are provided.

“Widespread community mitigation combined with ongoing containment activities represents both an effective intervention for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and a serious threat to the economic well-being of the country and the world.”

Critical initiatives include expanding testing and advising testing practices.

“Extensive, rapid, and widely available COVID-19 testing is essential,” the CDC document states. “CDC is working within the ‘All-of-Government and All-of-America Approach’ to increase testing capacity and availability to improve case detection and contact tracing though all phases of the US plan to Opening Up America Again. As the supply and nature of tests expand, testing criteria have been broadened to include a wider range of people and situations.”

Also key is a phased-in approach to reopening, the document states, citing a three-phased approach benchmarked to the use of six “gating” indicators to assess when to move through from one mitigation phase to another.”

Saying contact tracing is a “core disease control measure used by local and state health department personnel for decades” for preventing further spread of infectious diseases, the CDC says it is “ramping up” efforts to trace those with whom COVID-19 positive individuals have had contact.

“As part of this effort, CDC has developed multiple training tools for communities to train the newest frontline workers in public health,” the reopening initiative states. “CDC will train newly identified contact tracers on how to quickly locate and talk with the affected individuals, assist with isolation issues, and work with affected individuals to identify people with whom the affected individuals have been in close contact. Identification of contacts will allow further outreach by public health to identify individuals who need to self-isolate.”

The document also provides business-specific interim guidance “for specific practices that employers may find helpful at particular stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The CDC says the appendix is a “menu of safety measures, from which establishments may choose those that make sense for them in the context of their operations and local community, as well as State and local regulations and directives.”

Child care programs, school and day camps, restaurants and bars and mass transit are among the businesses specifically addressed with a specific components for all businesses with employees who are deemed high risk — those over age 65 and those with underlying medical conditions including chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, hypertension, severe heart conditions, weakened immunity, severe obesity, diabetes, liver disease, and chronic kidney disease that requires dialysis.

Workers at higher risk for severe illness should be encouraged to self-identify but employers should avoid making unnecessary medical inquiries, the CDC advises.