Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians on Wednesday to stay home and practice physical distancing to avoid spoiling the progress the state has made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as he prepares to allow some businesses to gradually reopen.
“Why put ourselves in that position when we are just a week or two away from significant modifications of our stay-at-home [order], where we can begin a Phase 2, beginning to reopen sectors of our economy that are low risk?” Newsom said.
On Tuesday, Newsom unveiled a broad outline of a plan to lift his stay-at-home order and slowly ease the restrictions on Californians in four stages in the weeks and months ahead. The governor also announced that schools could potentially reopen in July or August, catching educators who were learning about it for the first time off guard.
The governor introduced the new stages weeks after he unveiled six criteria that he said the state must meet — including more widespread testing, increasing hospital capacity and developing plans to safely reopen stores and businesses and to prevent and prepare for the possibility of a second wave of infections — before gradually lifting the restrictions.
Newsom has not offered a specific timeline for Californians to expect to see the changes implemented. His proposal also lacked key details outlining all of the businesses that would be allowed to reopen physical locations in each stage, who would enforce restrictions still in place and how employers would be expected to protect their workers. The governor said Wednesday to expect more detailed guidelines in the next few weeks.
California is currently in the first stage, Newsom said, loosely defined as prioritizing the safety of essential workers who continue to perform their jobs during the crisis as government expands testing capabilities and builds its supply of hospital equipment, masks and other personal protective gear.
Newsom said the second stage would begin in the next “few weeks” and allow more types of “lower risk” businesses to reopen, such as manufacturing facilities, offices when telecommuting isn’t possible and the reintroduction of some public spaces. The governor’s office said curbside pickup would also occur at more stores in the second stage, although some retailers are already offering that option. Also part of the second stage is Newsom’s controversial proposal to start the school year in July or August.
Stage 3 would begin in later months and expand reopenings to hair salons, gyms, sports competitions in empty stadiums and religious services. The final stage would mark the end of the stay-at-home order and all restrictions, allowing people to return to concerts and sporting events, which the governor has noted is unlikely to occur until a vaccine becomes widely available.