California Edges Closer to Restarting One of World’s Biggest Economies

More Than 90% of California Counties Can Move Into Second Stage of Reopening

California sports venues such as Angel Stadium could resume games with no spectators by early June. (Major League Baseball)California sports venues such as Angel Stadium could resume games with no spectators by early June. (Major League Baseball)

Reopening California

California is relaxing stay-at-home restrictions for most of its counties, allowing more stores, restaurants and other businesses to resume operations.

The move by Gov. Gavin Newsom sets the stage for church services and sporting events to resume with proper distancing requirements. Under the new guidelines, counties that show 25 or fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days can begin the second stage of reopening. The original standard of one new case per 10,000 residents was significantly harder to reach. The state would no longer block counties if they have had a death from the coronavirus during the same time.

The criteria applies to counties that want to reopen before the state, which currently allows only curbside pickup of goods and restricts other services, including dining at restaurants. The loosened requirement makes 53 of California’s 58 counties eligible to begin reopening businesses and public spaces if they choose.

The decision suggests that California, one of the world’s largest economies, may reopen faster than expected. This comes as other states lift restrictions that have kept nonessential businesses closed and brought financial systems to a standstill.

It builds on an announcement last week when California and other western U.S. states provided restrictions on the use of permanent menus, salad bars and even guacamole as they set rules restaurants must follow to reopen their dining rooms during the coronavirus pandemic.Newsom said that in coming weeks, counties may be able to allow shopping in stores and dining at restaurants. Businesses such as hair salons can also reopen, which are currently scheduled as part of the third phase of reopening. Professional sports could resume in June without spectators and churches could begin reopening within weeks.

“We’ve been talking with league representatives from all the major league sports,” Newsom said Monday.

Possible Stage 3

Newsom said much of California could be nearing the third stage in the reopening rules — those activities have previously been described as being only after the second stage loosenings have all taken place.

Virus-related hospitalizations declined 7.5% while the number of patients admitted to the ICU fell 8.7% over the past 14 days. Tens of millions of masks have been distributed in the past couple of weeks.

The loosened requirements appear to stem from protests in areas of the state over requirements that counties must meet before they can reopen businesses and public places.

To qualify under Public Health Department rules announced two weeks ago, counties seeking to “self-certify” that they’re ready to loosen stay-at-home restrictions previously had to show they have hadn’t logged any COVID-19-related deaths and just one case of the virus per 10,000 residents during a two-week stretch.

Southern California’s Riverside County argued the no-COVID-19 death requirement could make it impossible to self-certify for reopening any time soon.

“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 time frame,” the Riverside County Board of Supervisors said in a May 14 letter to Newsom. “We are ready to cautiously reopen based on public health data.”

Newsom on Monday called the loosened restrictions a recognition that “one size does not fit all” in California.

“We recognize that conditions across the state are unique and distinctive depending on where you are,” Newsom said.