Parts of California’s economy, including some retail and hospitality businesses, may reopen for limited operations starting later this week as the state moves to the next stage of managing the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
Lower-risk businesses within the retail and hospitality sectors — such as clothing, florists, bookstores and sporting good stores — may reopen for curbside pickup as early as the end of this week, Newsom said. Restaurants for dine-in service, shopping malls and offices will remain closed.
“This is a very positive sign and it’s happening only for one reason — the data says it can happen,” Newsom said.
Newsom’s announcement came just days after thousands of residents across the state took to the streets to protest his order and some officials in more rural, Republican-leaning areas of the state areas moved to reopen their communities in defiance of the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order.
Before Newsom’s announcement at noon on Monday, three Northern California counties — Yuba, Sutter and Modoc — had already permitted many businesses to reopen in defiance of Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order.
The governor’s newly released plan provides the ability for health officials at the county and local level — such as those in more rural areas of the state that have been hit far less by COVID-19 than areas like the Bay Area and Los Angeles — to move further ahead and open more businesses, even as other counties hang back.
Counties eager to move ahead must first meet certain health requirements, including hospital bed capacities, testing capabilities and plans to track infected individuals and their contacts, Newsom said.
In the seven-county Bay Area, however, the region’s stricter order — which was just extended until the end of May — will still apply.
“Those that have stricter guidelines, we are not preempting their guidelines. We’ll still allow them to move forward,” Newsom said.
But at least one Bay Area public health official is leaving the door open for modifications to the regional mandates before its expiration on May 31.
“If we continue to have the public’s cooperation, I have great hope that the indicators we are monitoring will continue to improve and this order can be revised before May 31, 2020 in a manner that focuses more on behavior … and risk of disease transmission in contrast to categories of businesses,” San Mateo County Health Officer Scott Morrow said in a statement released Monday.
As of Monday, more than 55,000 people in California had been infected with the potentially fatal COVID-19 disease and more than 2,200 people had died. Yet, the governor said he was confident in the state’s ability — from hospital beds to personal protective equipment to testing — to meet the healthcare demands of the disease.
The state is currently more than 10,000 ventilators currently not in use and is conducting about 30,000 tests a day, Newsom said.
Still, Newsom cautioned that the modifications to his statewide shelter-in-place order could be reversed if the numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive-care unit beds begin to grow again, Newsom said.
“It has to be done in a very thoughtful and judicious way,” he said. “We just want folks to know we need to toggle back and forth here on the basis of what’s happening in these communities in real time.”
Detailed guidance for businesses that will be permitted to reopen will be released Thursday, including new sanitation and social distancing requirements.
“We want to make sure that both the workers and the customers are safe in these settings, which means that there will be modifications to ensure physical distancing and making sure that the unique circumstances of those workplaces will be addressed,” said Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health.
The governor also announced a plan Monday to redeploy thousands of state and county employees to help track COVID-19 patients and the individuals they have come in contact with.
Starting Wednesday, the University of California campuses in San Francisco and Los Angeles are launching an online training academy to recruit and train new tracers. Newsom said the 20-hour training programs are expected to prepare as many as 3,000 people per week for the positions, with the ultimate goal of training an additional tracing workforce of 20,000 people in the coming weeks.
The governor said 23 of the state’s 58 counties are actively tracing COVID-19 cases.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
California to begin reopening at end of this week, Newsom says