About a month after most states began issuing shelter-in-place orders, shutting down most non-essential businesses with an aim to keep citizens at home as much as possible, the federal and state governments are toying with the idea of opening up society once again.
Despite protests from a number governors who say there’s not enough coronavirus testing to relax restrictions, President Donald Trump released a plan in mid-April that the White House said would “help state and local officials [reopen] their economies, [get] people back to work, and [continue] to protect American lives.” Trump has said he thinks governors should take the lead for their own states, but he also tweeted on April 17 that citizens in Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia should be liberated against those governors who have imposed strict restrictions.
Trump said in mid-April that he wanted the country open for business by May 1, even though a vaccine for COVID-19 might be more than a year away. In mid-April, three regional groups of states (Washington, Oregon, and California on the West Coast; New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island on the East Coast; and Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin in the Midwest) said they would team up together to determine when to open their respective states.
Some states, though, are making more immediate plans to ease their restrictions, even if the majority of their residents want them to continue to wait longer. Here are the plans for those states.
- Florida: On April 17, Gov. Ron DeSantis reopened some beaches in the northern part of the state, including Jacksonville, and deemed walking, biking, fishing, swimming, and surfing as essential activities. Almost immediately, photos began circulating of people crowding the beaches and not keeping the social distancing standard of six feet between each other. That led to plenty of online anger and mocking.
- Texas: On April 17, Gov. Greg Abbott released an executive order that allowed for state parks to reopen on April 20, doctors to perform non-essential surgeries on April 22, and retail stores to begin using to-go services on April 24. On April 27, Abbott said retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants, malls, libraries, and museums can open on May 1. But all of the above can only operate at 25% capacity.
- South Carolina: On April 20, Gov, Henry McMaster was expected to ease the restrictions he had previously placed on retail stores, including flea markets, department stores, and craft stores. He’s also reportedly considering the idea of opening gyms, barbershops, and salons.
- Vermont: On April 17, Gov. Tim Scott said some business can begin operating again, including contracting companies and stores that sell garden supplies. Also, on May. 1, farmers markets can begin to reopen.
- Georgia: On April 20, Gov. Brian Kemp said businesses like gyms, bowling alleys, and salons can reopen on April 24 as long as they continue adhering to social distancing requirements. Restaurants and theaters, he said, could reopen in the state by April 27, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed. But President Trump thought that might be going too far. On April 22, Trump said he disagreed “very strongly” with Kemp’s plans and said, “I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase one…is just too soon.”
- Tennessee: On April 20, Gov. Bill Lee said “the vast majority of businesses” in the state can reopen on May 1. Some he said could even open on April 27. “While I am not extending the safer at home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to reopen as soon and safely as possible,” Lee said in a statement. “Social distancing works, and as we open up our economy it will be more important than ever that we keep social distancing as lives and livelihoods depend on it.”
- Iowa: On April 24, Gov. Kim Reynolds said farmers markets could open on April 27 as long as social distancing guidelines were followed. Elective surgeries in hospitals and clinics also will be allowed. Reynolds announced those openings on the same day that the state had reported its highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. A few days later, she announced that restaurants, gyms, malls, and retail stores can open at 50% capacity on May 1. Religious gatherings will also be allowed but must adhere to social distancing.
- Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt allowed barbershops, salons, and spas to reopen on April 24. Employees are mandated to wear masks. Stitt said that movie theaters, restaurants, gyms, and places of worship could reopen on May 1 as well.
- Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis said that elective surgeries and real estate showings could resume on April 27.
As CNN noted on April 30, about 31 states were set to partially reopen in the first few days of May.
On May 5, Trump said there could be additional casualties from the decision to reopen states.
“Will some people be affected? Yes,” Trump told reporters. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”