But if reopening has become a buzz word among politicians — many states have issued sweeping documents with color-coded plans to “rebound” and “bounce back” — life remains far from normal in most places across America. Even in Georgia, which opened many businesses last month ahead of other states, restaurants are seeing only about 15 percent of normal traffic, according to data published by OpenTable, a restaurant reservation website.
The White House has said that states should have a “downward trajectory” of cases over a 14-day period before reopening, but many states reopened well short of meeting those benchmarks. Some epidemiologists see warning signs of a rebound, especially in the South, and because it can take as long as three weeks for a newly infected person to become sick enough to go to the hospital, the impact of reopening is unlikely to be detectable immediately.
“We really are playing with fire here in a very broad sense,” said Charles Courtemanche, an economist at the University of Kentucky. In a recent paper for the journal Health Affairs, he estimated that the number of confirmed cases in the United States, which reached a million at the end of April, would have been closer to 35 million without the restaurant closures and stay-at-home orders that began in mid-March. “Just because it hasn’t been a catastrophe yet in your state, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be,” he said.