As state and local governments seek to re-open businesses and public spaces safely, various organizations and government agencies have recommended a number of convergent data-driven criteria to guide them. These include:
- a maximum number of new daily cases per million people, with 20-40 per million per day considered manageable1;
- a decline in new cases over the previous 14 days2;
- a maximum share of tests that come back positive, with 10 percent or less indicative of sufficient testing3; and
- flat-to-declining positive tests as a share of total tests4.
The JEC chairman’s office used these metrics to create the Reopen Readiness Metric Tracker, an interactive web page that provides real-time state- and county-level data on COVID-19 cases and testing.5 The aim is to provide policymakers and the public timely information to assess the extent to which public health conditions support economic activity.
The Reopen Readiness Metric Tracker provides greater access to the latest pandemic data and improved uniformity across data sources. The number of new cases per million people determines the color of the state or county, with lighter shades indicating fewer cases per million and darker shades indicating more. Users can zoom in on county-level data by clicking on a state, and zoom out by clicking on a county. Hovering on a state or county allows users to view details and trends. A checkmark indicates a state or county meets a given criterion for reopening, while an X indicates it does not. 6
State metrics generally conceal substantial county variation. Though it may appear a state is not ready to begin reopening, in many cases county-level information reveals that cases are concentrated in specific counties or metro areas, while incidence levels remain controlled elsewhere throughout the state.
The Reopen Readiness Metric Tracker includes only a few of the many metrics that state and local leaders could use to evaluate their readiness to reopen businesses and public spaces. These criteria include contact tracing capabilities, effective isolation of positive cases, possession of sufficient personal protective equipment, and adequate hospital resources to address a potential surge in cases of COVID-19.
Though all states have eased some lockdown restrictions, the data that policymakers and local leaders rely on also varies from one state to the next. In the future, the JEC chairman’s office expects to add new information to the interactive map in order to provide increasingly more comprehensive tools to aid policymakers in their plans to reopen.
1 Wall Street Journal, citing Resolve to Save Lives' proposed threshold of 40 new cases per day per million. Center for American Progress, suggesting levels of approximately 20 new cases per million per day and declining. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation with the most conservative recommendation of 1 case per million.
5 The map and charts display continually updated data on these metrics, relying on The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic and the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University.
6 The first criteria, “40 new cases or less” is achieved by remaining under 40 new daily cases per million over the past 7 days. The second criteria, “Falling cases in the last 14 days,” is achieved by comparing number of additional daily cases in the latest 7 days to the previous 7 days over the 14-day period. The third criteria, “10% or fewer tests are positive,” is achieved by consistently remaining under the 10% threshold for positive tests as a share of total tests over the past 7 days. And the final criteria, “Falling positive test share,” is achieved by comparing the average positive tests as a share of total tests in the latest 7 days to the previous 7 days over the 14-day period.