Learn about the continued risk of COVID-19 in public spaces, and our suggested guidance for reopening businesses and the general public.

REOPENING GUIDANCE

Learn about steps to take to lower our risk of COVID-19 while states and local areas reopen

WHAT PARTS OF SOCIETY ARE REOPENING AMID COVID-19?

As part of a phased approach, states and communities across the country are modifying stay-at home measures and reopening certain types of businesses and public spaces. These reopenings usually require or highly encourage key restrictions in place designed to limit potential exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. The types of businesses or public spaces that are reopening will vary across communities, which at times can make keeping up with and following current guidelines in your local area – in comparison to state or federal-level guidelines – feel confusing or overwhelming. To stay informed of the latest local or state guidelines in your community, you can visit your local and/or state health department and government websites, follow them and your state governor or local mayor on social media, and seek out local news.

While there are local differences, the types of businesses that are reopening in some communities include (but are not limited to):

  • Churches and houses of worship

  • Manufacturing businesses

  • Offices where teleworking is difficult

  • Outdoor parks and recreation facilities

  • Outdoor museums

  • Personal care businesses (hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, gyms, etc.)

  • Restaurants

  • Retail stores and malls

Always check with your local jurisdiction and local businesses for the most up-to-date information about what is open and how they are operating. It is a good practice to ask local businesses what measures they are implementing to limit potential exposure to the virus. While it’s important to stay informed of the latest updates, it's equally important to consider your own individual and family’s risks and unique situation when making any decisions related to going out to public spaces. These personal and family decisions should be made while also keeping the wellbeing of others and your entire community in mind.

DO REOPENINGS MEAN THAT COVID-19 NO LONGER POSES A RISK TO OUR HEALTH?

Most of us are eager to gain some normalcy back in our lives, but the reality is that even as parts of society reopen, the pandemic is not over and the virus that causes COVID-19 is and will be a part of our lives until an effective vaccine and/or treatment is identified. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sectors of society, including the economy. The decisions to modify certain stay-at-home measures and reopen some businesses gradually take into account many factors both from a public health and economic perspective. These include factors like the number of confirmed cases, testing availability, ability to track infections, hospital/health care capacity to treat those who are infected, unemployment rate, small business revenue loss, potential bankruptcies, etc. A phased approach to reopening certain businesses and entities is expected to help the economy begin to recover, but the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 still exists. States, counties, and cities will continue to monitor how COVID-19 unfolds during this process and can decide to modify their measures and reopening guidance at any given point once again, to either tighten or loosen restrictions. Therefore, it is up to all of us to continue to take daily steps to prevent and reduce our risk of becoming exposed to the virus, getting infected, and spreading it to others.

HOW CAN I STAY SAFE WHILE IN PUBLIC SPACES?

Despite many reopenings, because COVID-19 infections are still on the rise in many areas, it is best to continue to use caution when making decisions about going out and to stay home as much as possible. This is especially true if you or those in your household and whom you interact with on a regular basis are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. Sometimes family or job responsibilities may require us to leave our home and go out into public spaces. These include running errands for essential needs, such as groceries, medications, getting gas, seeking health care or banking services, etc. or simply going to work. Separate from these essential activities, given the many reopenings across the country, some people are also engaging in activities that aren't necessarily considered essential. Regardless of the reason for going out, anytime we leave our homes, there’s a level of risk involved.

Many public health experts are advising to keep in mind four main factors when assessing the level of COVID-19 risk in public spaces and certain activities:

  • Time

  • Space

  • People

  • Place

Another way to think about risk as related to COVID-19 is to think about the three Cs – confined spaces, crowds, and close contact. In general, the more time you spend and the closer in space (close contact) you are to any infected people, the higher your risk. Interacting with more people (crowds) raises your risk, and indoor places (confined spaces) are riskier than outdoors. Because a person may be free of symptoms at a given time (whether pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic) but still pass on the virus, it is up to all of us to collectively and consistently take preventive steps to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, and its impact, in our community.

When running errands or participating in other activities in public spaces take these steps to reduce your risk of COVID-19:

  • Plan ahead and be flexible.
    • Stay home if sick.

    • When available, use online services instead of going out.

    • Check online or call and ask about safety measures in place at a particular place.

    • When choosing where to go, think about the three Cs – confined spaces, crowds, and close contact. The more Cs, the higher the risk.

    • If you arrive to a location and notice the three Cs, consider leaving and returning at another time.
  • Be proactive while in a public space and upon leaving.
    • Wear a cloth face mask or covering.
    • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Avoid surfaces that are touched by others or clean them frequently, if possible.
    • Practice physical distancing (stay at least 6 feet away from others).
    • Keep interactions with others short.
    • Use hand sanitizer after leaving stores, and during and after an activity.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home.

IS IT SAFE TO START GATHERING WITH OTHERS?

From the perspective of controlling and reducing the spread of a disease, group gatherings increase the risk of exposure to, infection, and spread of COVID-19. Lessening the impact of COVID-19 on our communities, hospitals and health care system, or even on our own family has urged all of us these past few months to stay home as much as possible. While difficult, and despite the toll that COVID-19 has taken on our livelihoods, the economy, and our communities, our actions have also saved lives. Even with many local reopenings, we must continue to do our part and take daily steps to prevent and minimize the risk and effects of COVID-19.

A lack of social gatherings for a prolonged period of time can affect our mental health, especially in cultures, like the Latino culture, that highly value face-to-face interaction with immediate and extended family, friends, and other acquaintances. Luckily, many are finding ways to stay socially connected virtually with the aid of technology and social media, as well as drive-by style celebrations where physical distancing can be observed. Despite these efforts, many of us have probably started hearing, seeing, or even engaging in some gatherings in light of states reopening and the warmer weather brought on by summer.

As this trend continues, and if you are going to gather with others despite official recommendations, remember the four main factors mentioned above – time, space, people, and place – or the three Cs – confined spaces, crowds, and close contact – when assessing the level of risk involved with activities. The more time you spend and the closer in space (close contact) you are to any infected people, the higher your risk. Interacting with more people (crowds) raises your risk, and indoor places (confined spaces) are riskier than outdoors. In addition to this, you should consider how many cases of COVID-19 there are in your area since the higher the community transmission of COVID-19 is, the higher the risk of it spreading during a gathering. Your and your family’s own risk factors and your behaviors to minimize your exposure to the virus should also be taken into account, as well as the risk factors and behaviors of those with whom you’ll be gathering.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19, make sure to:

  • Gather outdoors instead of indoors. If indoors is the only option, increase ventilation by opening the windows.
  • Keep gatherings to larger spaces with fewer people.
  • Practice physical distancing (stay at least 6 feet away from others), including when greeting and saying goodbye to others.
  • Wear a cloth face mask or covering.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, toys, or other items.
  • Keep interactions short, to no more than a few hours.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds during and after the gathering is over. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean surfaces that are touched by others before and after the gathering is over.

WHEN WILL SCHOOLS AND CHILD CARE CENTERS REOPEN?

As states and communities reopen, school systems are working with state and local health officials to decide when and how they will open K-12 schools. While some child care centers have remained open, mainly to care for children of essential workers, they too are weighing out different factors and seeking out guidance about when and how to reopen in the safest way possible. The CDC is offering information to help schools and child care centers protect the health of its students, teachers, administrators, and staff. Some of this information includes advising schools to have enough supplies available to support healthy hygiene practices, and to routinely clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched often. Keep an eye out for information from your school district. Information may come via phone, email, or website depending on your school’s communication plan. Local media outlets may also provide updates, since they often monitor this information.

As parents, it is normal to feel uneasy or have apprehension about sending your children back to school in this environment. Any decisions made should consider the needs and overall social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of your child(ren) and family. For more information on how COVID-19 develops in children, check out The Basics section of our COVID-19 webpage.

WHERE DO I FIND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES?

The CDC has developed “Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes” that outlines recommendations for developing, implementing, maintaining and revising plans related to reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 amid reopenings. The guidance offers information tailored to various types of settings, such as health care, home, transportation, businesses including restaurants and bars, and many community locations including: