America Is Reopening: Here's What Employers Need to Know

Computer on Table Working From Home

Please visit our COVID-19 resources page with more information for business owners and employees.

The president recently released guidelines for reopening the United States.

For those who are ready to get back in the office, there’s a light at the end of the COVID tunnel! The Opening Up America Again guidelines include a three-phase plan with gating criteria to help states ease back into “business as usual.” 

It’s worth noting that the road back to “business as usual” might not be a linear one. Your community may fly through phases and then have a setback. If we’ve learned anything from the last few months, it’s that flexibility and adaptability are key to maintaining some sanity during a pandemic. We have to give ourselves and each other a little extra grace while we learn to navigate the next normal.

This phased approach intends to minimize the risk of a resurgence of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable populations. These guidelines will be implemented on a state/county basis, so you’ll need to stay up to date with your governor or mayor’s guidance for your area. 

Gating Criteria 

Getting back to normal depends on meeting the gating criteria. The gating criteria are based on a two-week window of time in which there is:

  • A downward trend of flu-like and COVID-like cases reported
  • A decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases documented or percent of positive tests out of the total number of tests
  • Hospitals should be able to treat every patient without the help of crisis care and there must be a testing program in place for healthcare workers 

It’s important to note: These guidelines make provisions for state and local leaders to adjust as necessary to accommodate the effects of COVID-19 in their communities.

Phase One: Meet the criteria once

Once the gating criteria have been met, the regional government can enact phase one of the plan to reopen the economy.

At the workplace, employers should encourage teleworking, shut off common areas, minimize nonessential travel, and provide accommodations for vulnerable employees. 

Schools will remain closed, visits to senior facilities and hospitals are prohibited, outpatient elective surgeries may resume, gyms can reopen with strict social distancing and sanitation guidelines, and bars should remain closed. Large venues (such as restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting venues) can open but must follow physical distancing procedures. 

Phase Two: No sign of a rebound and meet criteria a second time

If the gating criteria are still met two weeks after phase one, phase two can be enacted. In this phase, schools, daycares, and camps can reopen, in-patient elective surgeries can now resume, and bars may open with a limited standing-room-only policy. 

The recommendations for employers remain essentially the same, but rather than enforcing strict protocols, employers can enforce more moderate social distancing. Common areas should remain closed and many employees should continue teleworking; however, it’s ok to let a few more people into the office. The magic number for phase two is 50 people in any given space — so try to keep that number in mind when reopening the building.  

Phase Three: No rebound and meet criteria a third time

Assuming the gating criteria continue to be met, regions can move to the final phase, lifting most restrictions. Employers can resume the new “business as usual”, which is pretty much the same but now includes air high fives, a little extra hand sanitizer, and a dash of teleworking!

Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. Large venues, gyms, and bars can remain open but should still practice physical distancing and sanitation protocols where possible.

Employer Responsibilities 

The guidelines emphasize the importance of implementing appropriate workplace practices, such as social distancing, providing protective equipment, implementing temperature checks, improving sanitation procedures, frequently disinfecting common spaces, and evaluating business travel. 

Employers play an integral role in slowing the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home when they don’t feel well, offering flexible telework options, and showing kindness to your people during this crazy time. Now, more than ever, it’s important to create a culture that is flexible, supportive, and kind. We’ll get through this together!

It’s important to make sure you’re following all local, state, and federal regulations as well as heeding the advice of health experts when creating policies. Need help developing procedures for your workplace? Contact your HR business partner or give us a call at 888.811.5150. Our experts are ready to help! 

Also on Nextep

Get ready for changes! As of July 1, 2024, a new wave of state laws are set to go into effect across the country. These updates impact everything from worker protections and minimum wage to important regulations for businesses. Whether you’re an employer, employee, or simply a resident staying informed, this article will guide you […]
Read more
A Game Changer for Employers The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently made a significant change regarding employers’ use of non-compete agreements. The final rule issued by the FTC prohibits the use of non-compete agreements for many workers, which is a departure from the longstanding practices of many companies. This decision is already facing legal challenges, […]
Read more
Key Points for Employers About the Latest Harassment Guidance The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently updated its guidelines on workplace harassment enforcement. This was the EEOC’s first update in more than 30 years. The updates are intended to clarify and modernize existing standards. These changes take into account recent legal developments and the […]
Read more
What You Need to Know About PWFA The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released the final regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). These regulations, taking effect on June 18, 2024, update the PWFA rules put into place in 2023 and significantly impact how employers with at least 15 employees accommodate workers with […]
Read more
When Addiction Strikes at Work The issue of addiction in the workplace presents a complex challenge for both employers and employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects qualified individuals with disabilities, but active addiction itself isn’t necessarily covered. Here’s a breakdown of rights and responsibilities: Employee Rights Under the ADA Generally Not Covered: The […]
Read more
What is Considered “Reasonable”? What happens when an employee with a disability needs an adjustment to perform their job effectively? This is where reasonable accommodations come in. However, the question often arises: what exactly is considered “reasonable” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Striking a Balance The key is to find a balance between […]
Read more
It’s time for an ADA refresher! The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a cornerstone of civil rights legislation, ensuring equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As an employer, understanding your obligations under the ADA is crucial. Here’s a breakdown of the key points: What qualifies as a disability? The ADA defines a person […]
Read more
Forced to listen? Imagine this: Your boss calls a mandatory meeting. Instead of discussing work tasks, they spend the time telling you why you should support a political candidate or a particular religious view. That’s a captive audience meeting, and it’s becoming a hot-button issue. A captive audience meeting is a mandatory work meeting where […]
Read more
At some point during the election cycle, you may encounter employees wanting to display political propaganda at work.  This can range from flags and posters to social media posts and even conversations, and it can create a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere for colleagues with differing viewpoints. So, how do you maintain a respectful workplace while […]
Read more
As a presidential election year unfolds, employers must navigate the complex landscape of voting leave laws to uphold employees’ rights while ensuring compliance with state regulations. While federal law does not mandate time off to vote, many states have enacted specific provisions. Here’s what employers need to know to navigate this terrain effectively. Understanding State […]
Read more
An Employer’s Guide to Politics in the Workplace The current political climate can be divisive, and tension can easily spill over into the workplace. When employees hold vastly different political views, it can lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and a fractured work environment. So, what’s an employer’s responsibility when it comes to politics in the […]
Read more
Unpacking the Buzzword You’ve likely heard the term “quiet quitting,” conjuring images of disengaged workers coasting through their jobs. But before we jump on the bandwagon of criticism, let’s take a closer look at what this phenomenon actually means. At its core, quiet quitting describes employees fulfilling their job requirements without going the extra mile. […]
Read more

Download Our App


Download the Nextep Mobile App in Apple iOS or Google Play