The global pandemic of COVID-19 poses an unprecedented challenge to the health and well-being of every state and territory across the country. In the absence of treatments and vaccines proven to be safe and effective, states and territories have turned to social distancing to avoid a spike in serious illnesses and deaths that could overwhelm the healthcare system. While there is significant evidence that social distancing is effective at blunting the full force of COVID-19, these actions have come with significant economic and social costs.
With the paramount aim of keeping individuals and communities safe, governors are committed to reopening states in a manner that preserves public safety and confidence. Opening prematurely—or opening without the tools in place to rapidly identify and stop the spread of the virus—could send states back into crisis mode, push health systems past capacity, and force states back into strict social distancing measures. This scenario would repeat the negative economic consequences of pandemic response and reduce public confidence, further deepening a recession and protracting economic recovery.
There is substantial consensus among national experts that significant preparation will be required by state and national leaders to scale up the required public health infrastructure to limit outbreaks. States will also need to develop plans for a careful, staged reopening that protects the public’s health while laying a strong foundation for long-term economic recovery. This report synthesizes and expands upon these expert recommendations by outlining ten key steps and related operational considerations for governors to guide critical decisions in support of the public’s health and well-being in the weeks and months ahead.