Gavin Newsom says California will begin easing coronavirus closures this week

‘That includes … restaurants with modifications opening, hospitality more broadly opening again with modification’

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 05 May 2020 10:42 BST
Gavin Newsom moves California towards opening up

California governor Gavin Newsom has announced that certain regions of his state will be allowed to move to “phase two” of a reopening protocol this week, provided they meet various conditions in their efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In a televised statement, Mr Newsom told viewers that based on “the data”, certain businesses will be allowed to resume trading on Friday if they can adapt and make modifications. Elaborating in a tweet, he gave the clear to clothing stores, florists, bookstores and sporting goods stores — provided they allow for curbside pick-up.

He also said that other businesses such as eateries may yet start reopening once local officials can certify that their regions have met strict criteria.

“With plans that need to be locally certified by criteria that includes their capacity on testing, their capacity on tracing, their capacity on physical distancing and sanitation, and their capacity to protect the most vulnerable residents in their community, particularly seniors and congregate facilities, those that are incarcerated, those that are homeless, and other individuals.

“If those criteria can be self-assessed, self-certified by the local health official … we will allow additional movement through phase two. So that includes … restaurants with modifications opening, hospitality more broadly opening again with modification.”

Three counties in sparsely populated northern California have already begun reopening without approval, with some measures even going beyond the phase two changes that Mr Newsom is now permitting. However, the counties have no major urban centres and account for only a relative handful of the state’s tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths.

The governor’s move to allow relaxation to proceed at the local level rather than statewide reflects California’s uneven progress on contact tracing, which is so far underway in only about half of all counties. However, the state’s hospitalisation rate is stabilising, and more ventilators and personal protective equipment have been procured, while testing capacity has improved.

“Trust me, I know this can sound very confusing,” said Mr Newsom in his statement, “but let me just make this point: we are entering into the next phase this week. End of the week, with modifications, we will allow retail to start operating across the spectrum. We will allow regional variation, but only after self-certification of particular criteria that will allow even further implementation of our phase two.”

And for all that he celebrated the chance to take a step forward, Mr Newsom also urged caution.

“This is a very positive sign, and it’s happened only for one reason: the data says it can happen.

“But we recognise as we begin to modify, behaviour is modified and possible community spread may occur. If that’s the case, and we do not have the capacity to control that spread, to trace that spread, to track that spread, to isolate individuals that may have been in contact with Covid-19, we will have to make modifications anew.”

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