Last week, President Donald Trump released a three-step plan to reopen the economy—one that uses a "phased and deliberate approach" to restart work and open companies in areas that have strong, capable COVID-19 testing processes in place and have seen a decrease in the number of new cases.
The Trump administration's plan puts the power to reopen in the hands of state governors, many of whom were already working on plans of their own. Areas with low transmission of the coronavirus would be the first to go back to normal business practices.
While the plan is good news for many—especially those in areas where social distancing and business shutdowns have now been happening for several months. However, the administration noted that even the plan will take time to enact, and social distancing in some form could be necessary through the end of 2020. Here's what the plan entails:
Before Phase 1:
- State must see a decline in documented COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period
- Robust testing program must be in place
- State must see decline in influenza-like illnesses reported over a 14-day period
- Hospitals must have an adequate supply of personal protective gear available for at-risk health-care workers, including gloves and masks
- Hospitals must have capacity (beds, ventilators, supplies) to treat an increased number of patients
Phase 1 Recommendations:
- Strict social distancing for all of the public
- Employers should telework wherever possible, return to work in phases
- All nonessential travel is discouraged
- Gatherings larger than 10 people should be canceled or avoided
Phase 2 Recommendations:
- Churches, bars, gyms and large venues reopen with plans for social distancing—limit gatherings to 50 people
- Schools may reopen
- Nonessential travel for employers resumes
- Elective surgeries resume in areas with capacity
Phase 3 Recommendations:
- If all goes well, Phase 3 should represent a return to some version of normalcy for Americans
- Maintain a focus on identification and isolation of any new cases of COVID-19
- Churches, bars, gyms and other large venues reopen with limited social distancing and additional hygienic plans in place
As states move to start the process, there should be guidelines put in place for monitoring new cases and testing availability for the 2 weeks prior to make sure any one state is ready to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and so on.
The plan is welcome news for the over 22 million United States citizens who have filed for unemployment at this point (1 in 7 workers), but will only be successful if specific and necessary precautions are taken to prevent a second surge of new cases from happening.
So, what does the plan mean for construction? The short answer: It depends. Look to your state governor for what's next. We know that for some of you, construction has continued as usual, barring the numerous delays in materials and project challenges that have come with the onset of the pandemic. For others, projects have been postponed or cancelled altogether due to bans on construction for particular areas.
The good news is that construction is considered "essential," and as such will be one of the first industries to return to work fully for those of you that are completely shut down at this time. In Boston, Massachusetts, plans are already in place for construction companies to return to work. Mayor Marty Walsh told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce last week that construction could start back as early as next month.
In the interim, if you're not already doing so, your company needs a plan for social distancing and increased sanitation practices on your jobsites and in your offices. Need help implementing these practices and rules for work? Here's a few resources:
- AGC's Coronavirus Guidance and Coverage
- OSHA's Safe Practice Guidelines
- CBO's 'COVID-19 in Construction: Crucial Developments & Updates'
- COVID-19: Construction Dive's Daily Resources & News Tracker
- ENR's 'Latest Updates on the Coronavirus Pandemic'
- 14 Ways Construction Companies Can Fight COVID-19, from Construction Equipment
Here's to a swift recovery. Let us know how we can help your company get back to work—email Managing Editor Elizabeth Manning at email@example.com with your questions and comments about our coverage.