California is likely “weeks” away from reopening some nonessential businesses, while the reopening of movie theaters and other entertainment venues will likely be “months” away, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.
The relaxations of the statewide “stay at home” order come as part of a four-stage framework for reopening the economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom and Director of the Department of Public Health Sonia Angell outlined at a Tuesday press conference.
The state is already in Stage 1, the officials said, with the ongoing physical distancing measures in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. Stage 2 allows for the reopening of “lower risk workplaces” like retail (through curbside pickup), manufacturing, offices where telework is not possible and some public spaces with adaptations. In Stage 3, “higher risk workplaces” like movie theaters, sporting events without live spectators, gyms, hair salons and in-person services like churches and weddings can reopen or take place with adaptations and limits on gathering sizes. Stage 4 — which will be the end of the “stay at home” order — allows the “highest risk workplaces,” such as concerts, live sporting events and convention centers, to reopen.
Newsom said that the transition to Stage 2 will be “in weeks, not months,” while the transition to Stages 3 and 4 will be in “months, not weeks” but cautioned Californians to not to “walk away” from their commitment to distancing.
The officials also said that California is considering moving up the start date for the next school year to as early as late July or early August, with necessary modifications, but a definitive decision has not yet been made.
“As we open up schools, as we make sure that childcare is more broadly available, it also makes it more possible for parents to go back to work,” Angell said. “So school will look very different, but we really are looking at enhancing those opportunities.”
To help determine the timing of the transitions between each of those four stages, state officials will be monitoring the six indicators that California officials delineated two weeks ago, which include California’s ability to test, contact trace, isolate and support exposed individuals, the ability for hospitals to handle surges and the development of therapeutics to meet demand.
With the potential transition to Stage 2 weeks away, Newsom still cautioned that Californians shouldn’t be overeager to open things too quickly or ease up on their commitments to flattening the curve through physical distancing.
“We are able to make these announcements and begin to have a more public conversation with you about opening up with adaptation and with modification, meaningful changes to our stay at home order, again because people have taken seriously overwhelming the stay at home orders and physical distancing,” Newsom said. “But I want to caution everybody if we pull back too quickly and we walk away from our incredible commitment to not only bend this curve but to stop the spread and suppress the spread of this virus, it could start a second wave that could be even more damaging than the first and undo all of the good work and progress that you’ve made.”
“The virus has not gone away. Its virulence is still as acute, its ability to be transmitted still is dominant, and so we by no stretch are out of the woods,” he added. “We could be lulled into this quiet sense of confidence, change our behavior, put ourselves at risk, and put this broader agenda of reopening with modification at risk.”