Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States 4 months ago, more than 1 million Americans have contracted the virus. Every state has made an effort to enforce restrictions intended to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19, including ceasing business operations, people working remotely, and prohibiting non essential activities. As of now, almost all 50 states are proceeding to reopen their economies after implementing strict lockdown measures. The few states that are still under statewide lockdown include Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey. Unfortunately, many health experts have suggested that most states have failed to make the necessary preparations to control future outbreaks, which could result in a rise of cases if they reopen. With this in mind, it is important to note the U.S border is currently closed until further notice.
A significant amount of COVID-19 cases in the U.S are located in New York City. To be precise, more than 50% of the country’s cases have originated in New York State, Connecticut, and New Jersey, with 60% of the world’s total COVID-19 deaths occurring in these three states. On the other hand, states such as Alaska, Kentucky, and Washington have been relatively successful at suppressing the disease. Although the limited access to testing may cause a discrepancy in completely accurate results, this success is due to the ability of certain states to enforce strict lockdown procedures and follow the metrics laid out by health experts and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Below you will find the 5 goals that the states must reach in order to assist them in successfully and safely reopening their economies:
1. Maintain a low number of new daily COVID-19 cases
As explained by health experts and government officials, a low number of new daily cases translates to less than 4 daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,00 people. This criterion is crucial because it can successfully extrapolate whether your state is likely free from any future outbreaks or not. However, you must understand that even if your state has met this metric, any recent increase in cases can indicate danger. The initial outbreak in New York is a practical example of this, with a small number of confirmed cases quickly leading to thousands of new cases every day. The 17 states that are currently meeting this goal include Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
2. Decrease in total cases of COVID-19 and COVID-like illnesses
This means that there must be a consistent two-week drop in cases of coronavirus. According to Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist, the first and most pivotal metric is that you should aim to have a continuous decrease in cases. A small reduction in cases from the previous two weeks will not suffice because it has to be a significant drop that is sustained over the entire two weeks if you want to protect the public’s safety. It is also crucial to ensure that there is sufficient testing when the decrease occurs, as this will help account for the accurate number of cases in your state. For states such as Montana with small outbreaks, this goal may not be as relevant as the others. This is due to the fact that even though the state has been unable to get the number of new cases down to zero, the one or two new cases that it has should not be considered a significant threat to the entire state. The 18 states that have met this goal include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas.
3. High testing capacity for the coronavirus
According to the COVID Tracking Project, most states still don’t have enough tests per capita, and there should be at least 150 tests per 100,000 people per day. Testing is crucial to controlling the pandemic because it allows health officials to monitor the scale of the outbreak, isolate those who are sick, and implement lockdown measures if need be. Jen Kates, the director of global health at the Kaiser Family Foundation, explains that the states should be also saving up their testing capacity for when they begin to reopen. This is because as people move around more, they are going to come into contact more often with one another. Currently, the 12 states that have enough testing are Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, and Rhode Island.
4. Decrease in percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive
Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that nations should aim to have less than 5 percent of tests coming back positive, as of now, many states have been unable to meet this goal. This guideline is important due to the fact that it is essentially another way to determine testing capacity. To explain, a high positive rate does not necessarily suggest that COVID-19 is a significant threat in your state. This is because a region with sufficient testing should be striving to test a lot of people, regardless of whether they believe they have contracted the virus or not. For the most part, high positive rates reveal that only people who have serious symptoms are being tested, ultimately inflating the severity of the outbreak. The 23 states that meet this goal include Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
5. Sufficient availability of ICU beds
The CDC has recommended that states maintain below 60 percent occupancy in the ICU beds within hospitals. This is because if a future outbreak occurs, the health care system needs to be prepared to provide medical assistance to very severe cases and save lives. By continuing to practice social distancing, people can help prevent the spread of the virus so that hospitals can maintain and grow its ability to treat very ill patients. Thankfully, most state hospitals are not currently overwhelmed, with the 30 states meeting this goal including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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