In a chain of events this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom on May 18 loosened rules on businesses allowed to open in the state.
The decision comes just a couple of days after Riverside County asked the governor to approve its request to move to the state’s accelerated Stage 2 on May 15.
The county is currently at Stage 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, where most businesses still have to rely on curbside service.
The county requested to move to the governor’s accelerated stage two, which would provide a green light to restart the economy.
“We recognize the conditions across the state are unique and distinctive depending where you are,” Newsom said. “The bottom line is people can go at their own pace and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions better than any of us.”
The eased rules will allow restaurant dining rooms and shopping malls to open again in counties that meet the new criteria.
The governor also suggested that hair salons and spectator-free sporting events could open as early as the first week in June.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, in order for counties to enter the expanded Stage 2, they had to submit a 12-page application, called a “local variance attestation,” plus supporting documents.
The form stipulates criteria counties are required to meet to prove their “readiness,” which includes: 1 or fewer cases per 10,000 residents in the past 14 days, no deaths for the past 14 days, minimum daily testing of 1.5 per 1,000 residents, with recommendation of 2 per 1,000, testing sites within 30 minutes of 75 percent of urban residents and 60 minutes of 75 percent of rural residents, 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents, temporary housing available for 15 percent of population experiencing homelessness, hospital capacity for 35 percent surge in COVID-19 patients, a plan to protect hospital workers and provide personal protective equipment, and a 14-day supply and a documented supply chain of PPE for skilled nursing facilities.
In a May 14 letter to the governor, Riverside County supervisors said that the county is ready to “cautiously and safely” open for business based on public health data.
Which, as of May 20, Riverside County has tested 86,600 individuals, 6,053 cases were confirmed COVID-19 positive, 195 are currently hospitalized (including 68 in ICU), 270 deaths and 3,871 have recovered.
The county said in the letter that it has the ability to “meet, exceed or plan to achieve” six of the seven criteria outlined by the governor to accelerate through the current Stage 2 of the economic expansion plan.
It is, however, unable to meet the “epidemiologic stability of COVID-19,” which requires zero COVID-19 deaths and no more than one case per 10,000 people within 14 days.
However, with the new changes Newsom announced Monday, counties will no longer need to meet the death rate requirement.
Although inconsequential now due to the new standards, Riverside County asked for a variance saying, "In our opinion, the metrics are unrealistic for urban counties, and Riverside County in particular, where our geographic size and population make it impossible that no COVID-19 death would take place during the 14-day period.”
The new standard provided by Newsom hinges expansive reopening on newly confirmed cases.
Counties will have to show fewer than 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days, which was originally 1 new case per 10,000 residents.
So, basically show that fewer than 8 percent of residents tested positive for COVID-19 over a seven-day period.
The Riverside Board of Supervisors unanimously approved its Readiness and Reopening Framework on May 12, which officials described as a commonsense plan that meets both goals of protecting our public health and restoring the economy.
Among the criteria, the county has a plan to protect Stage 1 essential workers; created ample testing capacity; demonstrated the ability to protect vulnerable populations; developed a plan to expand contact tracing capabilities; and exceeded a minimum of 35 percent surge capacity in the county’s health system.
Newsom outlined what Phase 2 would look like on May 12, which allowed for the return of in-person dining and curb-side retail (with masks and reduced capacities), in counties that met certain coronavirus containment guidelines, however, in early Stage 2 personal services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios are not permitted.
Any county not under a local order (Riverside County rescinded their local health orders on May 9) were permitted to open lower-risk businesses such as clothing, bookstores, sporting good stores and florists for curbside pickup and delivery, though not in-store shopping (except in essential businesses) or dine-in eating.
Parks and beaches are mostly open, but many parking lots at those places remain closed, and gatherings with those outside your household are still forbidden.
Schools, with modifications, may reopen, but university campuses will still be closed and distance learning will continue.
With the new changes, 53 of California’s 58 counties can now move further into the second of four stages, Newsom said.
Below is the list of business activities/ sectors that fall within the accelerated Stage 2:
• Destination retail (retail stores), including shopping malls and swap meets
• Dine-in restaurants (other amenities, like gaming areas are not permitted in Stage 2)
• Schools with modifications
Editor Rachael Garcia may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (951) 849-4586 x120.