Revised plan moves slower, updates statistics more frequently
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) announced a new color-coded process Friday for reopening California businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The new plan takes a simple, slow, and steady approach to getting back in business. Counties will move through the system based on their rate of coronavirus cases, and their percentage of positive tests. Before, the state used other metrics, like hospitalizations and testing capacity, to determine whether counties could reopen.
Gov. Newsom says the new system focuses on preventing a surge in infections like the ones seen between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Newsom blamed the sharp increase in cases on a premature reopening, and ordered bars and gyms to close for another two months.
"After being forced to close businesses for a second time, the state is making sure that we really hold strongly to these buffers in terms of criteria and data, and holding that criteria and data in line for an extended period of time," Newsom said during a Friday afternoon press conference.
"We're going to be more stubborn this time and have a mandatory wait time between moves. We didn't do that last time," he added.
New rules link reopening to number of cases and positive tests
The new rules focus on alining business activities with the prevalence of coronavirus within counties. The cases and positive tests, the tighter the restrictions on restaurants, stores, and other businesses.
For example, a county in the most restrictive tier can only open restaurants for outdoor dining. Those in the lower tiers can let diners inside, although still at a reduced capacity.
Counties will have to meet certain metrics for three weeks before they can reopen certain businesses.
Another change - the state will now report virus statistics, such as case numbers, on a weekly basis, rather than the bi-weekly reporting it previously used.
Prior to the new plan, the state had relied on a county watch list. Most of California's 58 counties stay on the list because they surpassed on or more benchmarks or cases, infection rates, and hospitalizations. The list dictated what businesses could open, whether schools could begin in-person learning, and when people could attend indoor religious services.
Business owners and county leaders clamor for clarity
The new plan left business owners and county leaders alike clamoring for clarity. In a written statement, The California State Association of Counties said it needs to understand "what thresholds to aim for and the public health data that will determine success or failure."
The California Restaurant Association (CRA) says it's eager to get back into business. The state's once-thriving food industry has suffered under restrictions. The association says as many as one-million restaurant workers have been furloughed or laid off since the start of the pandemic.
"We'd like to see restaurant dining rooms reopen as soon as possible," said CRA President Jot Condi.
"Restaurants in every corner of the state are on life support right now. Every day that passes with a dining room closed, a restaurant owner is more likely to shut the doors permanently," he said.
California has the most confirmed virus cases in the nation, with nearly 700,000. It also has the third-most deaths with 12,550. However, since the closures last month, the average number of daily new cases has fallen. So have infection rates and hospitalizations.