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California allows 12 counties to reopen; 31 others lobby to join them

Tracy Manley, center, waits on Ruslan Batko of Yuba City; his wife, Angela Batko; and their twin 7-year-old daughters, Avery, facing, and Audrey, at Linda's Soda Bar and Grill in Yuba City.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California officials said Wednesday that 12 of the state’s 58 counties — most of them rural — will be allowed to more fully reopen.

Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Lassen, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Tuolumne, Yuba, Sutter and Shasta have been certified as meeting the state’s conditions for additional businesses to reopen.

“This is a dynamic process, and we don’t want to delay unnecessarily based on timelines,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his daily coronavirus news conference. “It’s not about timelines, it’s not about deadlines. It’s simply about data and it’s about health.”

Talks are underway with 31 other California counties to discuss whether they can expand their reopenings, the governor said, but he noted that conditions are still too serious in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties to modify guidelines for resuming business in those areas.

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Newsom said this week that California restaurants and shopping malls could soon reopen in counties that meet state standards for testing and reductions in coronavirus cases, but all businesses will have to abide by state guidelines for physical distancing and cleaning regimens.

Under the state plan, counties must have adequate testing and hospital capacity and the ability to trace those who have been in contact with ill people.

Restaurants can reopen for dine-in service in counties certified as meeting those benchmarks, but they should implement changes to guard against spreading the virus. Shopping centers, including strip malls and outlet malls, will be allowed to reopen with in-store customers in counties certified to have contained COVID-19, while car washes and pet groomers can also resume operating with safeguards.

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A Times data analysis last week found most big California counties were not close to meeting Newsom’s standards. The analysis looked at which counties could pass just the first two criteria — no new deaths reported in the last 14 days and no more than one confirmed case per 10,000 residents in that same time period.

Most of California failed that test. In fact, 95% of Californians live in counties that don’t meet that standard, the Times analysis found. Not a single county in Southern California or the San Francisco Bay Area met the criteria.

Officials in Orange County continue to express frustration with the state‘s more cautious approach. They contend that the economic havoc wreaked by the regulations makes it vital to loosen the rules.

“I think it’s time to open up,” Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said Tuesday. “Maybe it’s too late. It’s going to be very tough to catch up.”


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