Akash’s Covid Corner: The Process of Reopening The Country

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After months of dealing with COVID-19, many of us have been longing to reopen our favorite stores and restaurants, but what will that process actually look like?

Now that 2 very effective vaccines are close to being released in the USA, we have to look ahead at the process of reopening the country. With such a major change in daily life, it won’t be easy to get the country back to where it was before and there are many steps that we must take to make this process efficient and effective. Obviously, the first step is distributing the vaccines, which will probably start in late December of this year. After that, we have to start looking at reopening the more ‘essential’ businesses, such as schools. From there, everything else will slowly open as more of the population gets vaccinated. At first glance, it seems simple enough, but timing is key and reopening in an unorganized way could have serious consequences.  

The most important thing to keep in mind is hospital bed space. Medical experts have been urging throughout the pandemic because we need to keep hospitals under max capacity so that we don’t have seriously ill people who cannot receive treatment. We also want to make sure there is room for patients with medical issues other than Covid-19, so ideally, we want at least 30% of beds to be free. This is why most states already have plans to get the vaccine to those who would experience the worst symptoms and would be most likely to fill up hospital beds. If this phase goes smoothly, we could start reopening in about 3-4 months. However, we still have to be careful not to open the flood gates completely, since not only are the vaccines only about 95% effective, but less at-risk people can still get seriously ill as well. 

The other thing to keep in mind is the many factors that go into how exactly you distribute the vaccine. In places where the outbreaks are worse, you will want to distribute faster and in particular areas. In more rural areas, getting people vaccinated will take longer but less important since there will typically be fewer interactions and less spread between people. Scientists have also talked about determining who is less susceptible to the virus and not vaccinating them until everybody else is vaccinated. This is hard to do since we don’t have a base level for the number of antibodies that would make somebody immune as we do with most other diseases. A system like this would be nice, though, because the main thing that scientists are fighting right now is producing enough vaccine doses to go around, particularly since a full treatment involves taking 2 doses. 

The process of reopening America will be complicated and many things can go wrong. Producing and distributing vaccines is the first and most important step. Once people deemed “most at-risk” are vaccinated, we can start taking steps to reopen important businesses. Then, once enough of the population is vaccinated, we can start opening everything up and stop wearing masks. We have to make sure not to rush into it and cause thousands of unnecessary deaths in the process. For now, people can wait for more information and wait for people to get vaccinated so that restrictions can go down.