Newsletter: The new new new reopening rules

A security guard gets some exercise while keeping watch on the Apple Store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on May 8.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles TImes)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, May 19, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

The speed of travel on California’s long road to reopening just got quite a bit faster, after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced substantially relaxed criteria for counties to ease restrictions during his press briefing Monday.

[Read the story: “Newsom eases California reopening rules, allowing more counties to restart their economies” in the Los Angeles Times]

The changes mean that the vast majority of counties in the state — roughly 53 of California’s 58 counties, by Newsom’s own estimation — can now move further into the second of four stages toward reopening, if they so choose.


In less immediate news, the governor also gave great hope to the haircut-needing public when he said the opening of hair salons and even spectator-free sporting events could come as soon as the first week in June in some areas. “We’re within a window of a few weeks,” Newsom said Monday of salons.

A quick refresher on where we currently stand, since all of these ever-fluctuating reopening rules can be a little tricky to follow

The whole state is currently in Phase 2, where lower-risk businesses can begin to reopen with modifications. But reaching Phase 2 isn’t a one-and-done achievement. It’s more like a series of milestones, with corresponding rewards. Los Angeles, for example, remains in the early part of Phase 2 — meaning curbside retail is open for business, but restaurant dining rooms are still off limits. But in counties that have moved further into Phase 2, restaurants can resume sit-down service (albeit with drastic modifications) and shopping malls can reopen, among other relaxed restrictions. Hair salons and other types of personal care would fall under Phase 3.

Where we are in the phases of reopening California according to the Newsom administration's roadmap.
Where we are in the phases of reopening California according to the Newsom administration’s roadmap.
(Priya Krishnakumar/Los Angeles Times)

The new rules for easing restrictions

Under the old rules, counties were prohibited from moving further into Phase 2 and loosening shutdown rules if there have been COVID-19 deaths in the county in the previous two weeks. The new standard removes the death rate requirement and replaces it with a more generous threshold based on rates of newly confirmed cases. Counties will also need to show that hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients have stabilized.


As my Sacramento colleagues explain in their story, the original standard was criticized by many of California’s urban counties, whose leaders argued that even a single fatal case would block them from moving deeper into the second stage of reopening rules crafted by the Newsom administration.

Where will we see changes?

The announcement is not expected to bring immediate changes in Los Angeles County, which continues to outpace other parts of the state in confirmed cases and deaths. Immediate changes are also unlikely in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where several counties have already chosen to reopen more slowly than the general state guidelines.

But other parts of the state, even some urban ones, will probably see changes soon. According to the Sacramento Bee, officials in Sacramento and Yolo counties have said they expect to be among the next set of counties to be allowed to reopen part of their economies, with Sacramento planning to submit for approval on Tuesday. Public officials in San Diego also expressed optimism about their ability to meet the new requirements.

“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.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


The coronavirus infection rate in L.A. County is falling. But it’s still in the danger zone. Los Angeles remains the center of the coronavirus outbreak in California, with more than 1,800 deaths. Los Angeles Times


Families give the Los Angeles school district good marks for its efforts to help them, but many report they are struggling — both in trying to keep their children on pace academically and in other ways, according to a survey that the district released Monday. Los Angeles Times

Kevin Mayer, the chairman of Walt Disney Co.’s streaming business, is leaving Disney to run TikTok. The move comes shortly after Disney selected parks and products chairman Bob Chapek to succeed Bob Iger as its CEO in February. Many industry insiders speculated that Mayer, who was a candidate for the top job, would leave the company after the change in leadership. Los Angeles Times

In a time of virus, viral dance challenges have become incredibly popular on TikTok.
In a time of virus, viral dance challenges have become incredibly popular on TikTok. Here, Richard Unite, left, and Clare Blackwood, right, do the “Savage Challenge,” while Rodell Bautista and his daughter, center, perform the “Men in Black” challenge.
(GIF by Ross May / Mark Potts / Los Angeles Times)

After the coronavirus, the race to resume film production goes global. In recent weeks, several countries have raised their flags, vying for production. They tout their incentives, facilities and locations but also their low COVID-19 numbers, testing capabilities and measures to keep productions safe and minimize outbreaks. Los Angeles Times

“When the lockdown went into effect, I was homeless in the Fairfax District.” An L.A. man shares what life is like on the streets during a pandemic in this photo essay. LAist


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Undocumented immigrants in California can now apply for financial help. The application period for disaster relief payments under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus emergency assistance plan opened Monday. LAist


President Trump said that he’s currently taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to lessen symptoms should he get the new coronavirus, even though the drug is unproved in fighting COVID-19. Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician. Los Angeles Times


How much should remdesivir cost? Leading thinkers on drug pricing share their views on what constitutes a fair price, how much of a reward Gilead deserves, and what the price of remdesivir means for the future of treatments for COVID-19. STAT News


After widespread glitches in online AP testing, students can now submit by email. As the second week of AP testing began Monday, the College Board rolled out a new safeguard allowing students to email their responses if they encounter problems submitting their test answers. Los Angeles Times

Bay Area favorite Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery is closing for good because of the coronavirus. The Pleasanton restaurant chain said financial pain from the pandemic left it no choice but to close all 50 locations in three states. San Francisco Chronicle



Here’s where to stock up on frozen dumplings in the Bay Area. Many beloved eateries are now selling their full dumpling offerings in pre-frozen form. Eater SF

A Chico “maker” and grade school teacher is translating her lessons in textile and practical arts for distance learning. She was careful to note her student’s favorite colors, skill level and what they enjoyed in class as she gathered supplies for the kits, which were sent to students’ homes. And knowing parents are overwhelmed, she designed projects where students could easily complete their tasks independently. Chico Enterprise-Record

How to duck out of boring Zoom video conferences without getting caught. With a minimal amount of technical prowess (the steps are explained in detail here), you can create a looping video of yourself sitting there, set it as your Zoom background and voilà. Now go enjoy your midday nap. PC World

A poem to start your Tuesday: “kitchenette building” by Gwendolyn Brooks. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: sunny, 69. San Diego: cloudy, 66. San Francisco: partly sunny, 64. San Jose: thunderstorms, 87. Fresno: windy, 80. Sacramento: sunny, 69. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Julia Wilson:

When I first moved to L.A. from Scottsdale, I represented Arizona State University and my job was to connect with ASU alumni throughout the region. This was 1990 before GPS ... can’t even imagine it now. I became the world’s expert on Thomas Guide. My word, how I exhausted that book of maps. It was dog-eared, had coffee spills, and fell in the mud more than once. I could not have survived the metropolis without it and it allowed me to travel everywhere, from San Bernardino to Long Beach, to Malibu to the Valley, all with the aid of my trusty companion. I have to say I don’t miss that part of the “good old days.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.