Many Stores in California Can Start Reopening Friday, Newsom Says

People wear masks walking a dog at Alamo Square Park during the coronavirus pandemic on May 03, 2020 in San Francisco, California.  (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced plans to further ease California's stay-at-home restrictions by allowing most lower-risk retail businesses to reopen in some capacity starting Friday.

The changes, which will be formally announced Thursday, will move the state into the beginning of its second reopening phase, Newsom said. Under the order, a broad swath of retail shops can open for curbside pickup service by the end of the week, including clothing stores, bookstores and flower shops. However, offices, eat-in restaurants, shopping malls and other types of high-contact businesses will remain closed for now.

"This is an optimistic day as we see a little bit a ray of sunshine on the horizon," said Newsom, praising the work done by local officials and residents to follow public health guidelines.

As for reopening some closed or partially closed parks, Newsom said more specific protocols will be announced later this week.

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Newsom also said that individual counties can apply to move more quickly into the full second phase of the stay-at-home order by providing a plan that the state must approve to minimize the local spread of the virus. The state will publish those plans for public review.

"One thing I know very well, is that many of these counties, regions, have done a ton of work in this space and are already ready to go," he said.

Newsom emphasized, though, the state has power to intervene if these plans do not adequately contain the spread of the virus, and added that counties will also need to provide a strategy to "claw back" if case numbers begin to surge.

The governor also underscored that counties with stricter guidelines, like those in the Bay Area, will be allowed to continue enforcing their regulations.

The new Bay Area shelter-in-place order, which went into effect at 11:59 p.m. on May 3, specifies that residents must comply with the strictest order — be it state or local.

In further explaining the changes, California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell said the data support the easing of restrictions, adding that California will monitor four factors as restrictions ease:

  • Ensure the state's ability to care for the sick within hospitals;
  • Prevent infection in high-risk populations;
  • Build capacity to protect the health and well-being of the public;
  • Reduce social, emotional and economic disruptions.

Angell said the state is showing good metrics in key areas, which include stability of hospitalizations, the availability of personal protective equipment and the ability to provide contract tracing and testing.

California currently has 14 facilities available to take in patients infected with the coronavirus, providing more than 2,000 additional beds if there is a surge in cases, Angell said. The state also has more than 10,000 ventilators available and more than 94,000 applicants interested in joining the California Health Corps.

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Newsom also announced a new partnership with UCSF and UCLA, who will work with the state to run a virtual academy to train new contact tracers, with the goal of adding 3,000 new tracers each week to help identify and quarantine people who may have been exposed to the virus. The state will also provide a confidentially managed data platform to support contract tracing and data manifestation.

In response to certain regions in the state, including Yuba, Sutter and Modoc counties, moving forward with reopening this weekend ahead of the state's direction, Newsom said there are mechanisms to make counties pull back if need be, but would rather try to work cooperatively with those localities.

"This virus has not gone away. Let's not develop amnesia, let's not forget why we're in this position in the first place, let's not be naive about the virulence of this disease," Newsom said. "History doesn't repeat, it rhymes. I just hope we are stewards of our public health first and foremost in those cities and counties, and I know the vast majority of them are."