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Gov. Gavin Newsom always said that his approach to reopening California during the COVID-19 pandemic would be more of a "dimmer switch" than an on/off button —and now we're seeing how drastically that switch can move down as well as up.
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge across much of California, on July 13 Newsom ordered every county in the state to immediately shutter all bars and shut down indoor service in restaurants, wineries, zoos, museums, cardrooms, movie theaters and family entertainment centers (like bowling alleys and batting cages). Additionally, he ordered 30 counties — comprising about 80% of the state's population — to close indoor operations at fitness centers, places of worship, non-essential business offices, personal care services, malls, hair salons and barbershops.
Newsom has targeted the indoor operations of businesses like bars and restaurants — but not on this statewide scale. Just days before the July holiday, he announced the three-week closure of many commercial indoor activities in 19 counties, to address the increase in confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state.
The state's COVID-19 watch list now includes San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Marin, Sonoma, Santa Clara and Napa in the Bay Area.
Closures Come One Month After "Reopening"
Newsom's last major statewide order, back on June 12, was about reopening not closing. While much of the Bay Area chose to hold back, many counties across California were able to reopen public businesses including movie theaters, gyms and bars, after getting a green light from the state's Department of Public Health. Many of these were the same businesses that are now being ordered to close back up.
That June loosening of COVID-19-related restrictions represented California’s shift into Stage 3 of its reopening plans. The majority of California’s counties — including Napa, Solano and Sonoma — were quickly approved by the state to move into this next phase, pending clearance from local public health officials.
While the Bay Area's six other counties — San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara — initially opted for a slower, more cautious reopening timeline, they all then also chose to apply for this "variance attestation" to follow the state's timeline, with Alameda as the last to apply.
As COVID-19 cases began to rise again locally, San Francisco's surge toward and then away from reopening was perhaps one of the most dramatic in the Bay Area. In mid-June, S.F. applied for its variance alongside a newly-accelerated timeline that would have seen businesses like outdoor bars reopening on June 29, several weeks before originally projected. On June 26 those plans were then "temporarily" placed on hold by Mayor London Breed, who attributed her decision to the number of COVID-19 cases in the city "rapidly rising." A revised date of July 13 was set for these S.F. reopenings, but on July 7 that projection was also put on pause, with Breed saying "our public health experts feel it is not safe to move forward."
Scroll down to see what's still cleared for reopening in California from that June order, what's been closed again by the most recent announcement, and whether these new rules will apply to your county ... or not.
State guidance (understandably) emphasizes the cleaning and disinfecting of exercise equipment and locker rooms and the provision of sanitation products like hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for gym-goers. It also recommends facilities provide special gym hours for seniors and the medically vulnerable, and limit exercise class sizes. Swimming pools can reopen, but saunas and steam rooms must stay closed.
What about the Bay Area?
Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Marin, Sonoma, Santa Clara and Napa are on the state's watch list, which means their gyms must now shut — or pause any plans for reopening.
What does that look like? Solano, San Mateo, Sonoma, Napa counties had already reopened gyms, and now only San Mateo can keep theirs open. Marin had planned to reopen gyms on June 29, but postponed after a spike in COVID-19 cases. Santa Clara previously wanted to open its gyms soon after its application to join the state's reopening timeline is approved (if it is approved.) Alameda had listed gym reopening in its plan, but provided no set timeframe.
Contra Costa postponed its July 1 reopening of gyms after being placed on the state Department of Public Health watch list for rising COVID-19 cases, and on July 2 announced a new health order establishing mandatory criteria that businesses must meet to reopen. The new order does not include "phases" or specific dates when businesses might reopen — a strategy that county officials say is about long-term risk reduction.
What about counties not on the watch list? San Francisco says its gyms will reopen in its "August and beyond" period for Phase 3, but has also declared all reopening plans on pause now the county is on the state watch list. Other Bay Area counties have opted to not yet specifically address gyms in their reopening schedules, or have not provided a projected date.
Gyms have been among the businesses hit especially hard by the coronavirus closures. The San Ramon-headquartered gym chain 24 Hour Fitness announced on June 15 that it was filing for bankruptcy and permanently closing over 100 of its locations, including these 13 in the Bay Area.
Newsom's statewide order now mandates the closure of all bars in California, regardless of whether a county is on the state monitoring list.
California's bars had previously got the state's greenlight to reopen starting June 12, although only ones in counties that met the state's requirements. That guidance also removed the previous stipulation that a bar had to serve food to be able to serve alcohol, although this rule still applied to bars offering to-go drinks.
Because of their potential to enable the spread of COVID-19, Newsom had previously targeted bars for widepread closure back on June 28, when he ordered the mandatory and immediate closure of all bars for 14 days or more in the other counties on the state's "County Monitoring List," citing the need for Californians to "remain vigilant against this virus" amid rising case numbers.
The rules for bars that were allowed to remain open were much like those for restaurants, although bars with games like pool tables or shuffleboard are directed to follow the state's guidelines for Family Entertainment Centers, which encourage the disinfecting of equipment and the use of partitions between activity spaces to maintain social distancing. Like restaurants, bars were also not yet permitted to host any concerts, performances or private parties.
Like at a restaurant, you could have expected to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer and asked to wear a face covering when you were not eating or drinking. An establishment could also cancel your reservation if you arrived with symptoms.
What about the Bay Area?
All bars in the Bay Area must now shut, or pause any plans for reopening. Previously, bars were able to reopen whenever the county you live in allowed it (provided your county met the state's reopening requirements).
The statewide order does allows bars, pubs, brewpubs, and breweries, to continue outdoor operations if they are "offering sit-down, outdoor, dine-in meals."
Newsom's July 1 three-week closure order for bars, wineries and tasting rooms had already affected Solano, where bars and wineries had opened, and Santa Clara and Contra Costa, which paused any existing plans to reopen these establishments.
Even without the new closure order, the rest of the Bay Area was being cautious when it came to bars. San Francisco originally set a tentative date of "August and beyond" for its booze-only bars, then moved that up to June 29 (and then July 13) for its outdoor bars if the state approved its newly-accelerated timeline for certain businesses — but declared those plans "on hold" due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. No other Bay Area counties have given dates for bars to reopen ... yet.
Newsom has ordered the closure of all indoor restaurant operations in California, regardless of whether a county is on the state monitoring list.
California had previously permitted the reopening of restaurants in state-approved counties back in May, but then began mandating closures in counties on the state's watch list. The statewide reopening advisory included additional guidance for restaurants, including cleaning protocols, temperature checks for workers, the use of face coverings when not actively drinking or eating and keeping restaurant music low so servers could keep their distance from diners and still hear their orders.
What about the Bay Area?
All indoor restaurant operations in the Bay Area must now shut — or pause any plans for reopening.
Dine-in restaurant service had previously returned to several Bay Area counties including Sonoma, Napa and San Mateo — and had returned to Solano and Marin, which had already been forced to close those establishments owing to their spots on the state's watch list. Likewise, Santa Clara and Contra Costa had to halt their plans for reopening indoor restaurants. All the while, more Bay Area counties were actively planning for the return of indoor dining, although on July 7 San Francisco announced it was hitting pause on its planned reopening date of July 13.
Outdoor dining service has already been reintroduced in all Bay Area counties, where it can still continue even as indoor operations shut.
All movie theaters in California have been ordered to close. Movie theaters in California were previously permitted to reopen if they limited theater capacity to 25% or no more than 100 attendees, but more and more counties on the state's watch list were then ordered to close them.
State guidance recommended movie theaters implement reservation systems, designate arrival times and assign certain seats that people can use so that moviegoers could maintain 6 feet of distance from other groups. Patrons were asked, at a minimum, wear face coverings when entering and exiting the theater or buying concessions.
What about the Bay Area?
Only Solano and San Mateo counties had permitted movie theaters to reopen at 25%, capacity per state guidance — and they must now close their operations.
While the new guidance for California's public schools technically started on June 12, most will reopen with the new school year. In that guidance, California’s education chief provided a glimpse of what 6.2 million California students can expect when they return to school, including temperature checks upon entering schools and buses, extensive hand washing throughout the day, physical distancing requirements and face coverings for students and staff at all times except when eating and drinking.
What about the Bay Area?
The region's public schools remain closed, and still plan to reopen in the fall, along with most other schools in California, although districts are divided on whether instruction will be in-person or remote. Schools in Napa County were actually permitted to reopen June 1 subject to rules and modifications — but the county opted to continue to suspend teaching through the end of the school year.
All museums in California have been ordered to close with Newsom's latest announcement. California had OK'd the reopening of outdoor museums back in May, and then permitted the state's indoor museums to reopen too — including galleries, botanical gardens, zoos and aquariums. Museums were already being closed in counties on the state watch list with that July 1 closure order.
The state guidance for these establishments didn't apply to amusement, theme or water parks, which must remain closed. The guidance issued emphasized facilitating social distancing and one-way movement through exhibits, and cleaning protocols for shared areas.
What about the Bay Area?
Solano and San Mateo were the only Bay Area counties to have reopened their indoor museums, which must now stay closed after their initial closure due to being on the state's watch list.
All other Bay Area counties must now keep their plans for reopening indoor museums on pause. Contra Costa County had already postponed the return of indoor museums when they opted to pause their July 1 reopening plans, even before they were included in Newsom's closure order for being on the watch list. San Francisco originally set indoor museum reopenings for "August and beyond," and then moved that up to June 29, according to its newly-accelerated timeline for certain businesses, but then the city declared the reopening "on hold." Alameda County was planning for indoor museums to be still several phases of reopening away.
A Final Reminder
Remember: certain businesses and activities remain firmly off California’s list for imminent reopening, including live theater, saunas and steam rooms, nightclubs, concert venues, festivals and theme parks. This means it’ll definitely be more time before you see any of those open back up in the Bay Area, even if Newsom and the state Department of Public Health decide to give the green light.
Regardless of what state officials announce, whether you can finally return to your gym, hair salon or beloved bar in the future is almost entirely dependent on what your particular county decides. How far a county can “reopen” depends on whether it meets certain metrics, including number of cases, positive test rates and testing and tracing capabilities. We're tracking what's reopening around the Bay Area here, but if in doubt, check your county's reopening plans directly below: