Saying the state is “weeks, not months” away from relaxing stay-at-home orders, Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday outlined a risk-based, phased approach for the ultimate reopening of businesses, but said no exact timeline has been set.
Newsom also again said the decision of when to lift or soften health orders will be driven by science.
“Politics will not drive our decision-making,” he said. “Protests won’t drive our decision-making. Political pressure will not drive our decision- making. The science, the data, public health will drive our decision-making.”
Newsom previously outlined six key indicators the state will examine when considering when to lift restrictions, among them the availability of sufficient coronavirus testing, ensuring protections for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and homeless, ensuring adequate hospital capacity, the development of therapeutics or a vaccine and having procedures in place to ensure health orders can be quickly imposed again if cases surge.
The governor said state officials are pleased with the flattening of cases and hospitalizations thanks to social-distancing efforts. But he said the possibility of reopening businesses will be done cautiously, along with restrictions to ensure worker and customer protection.
“We believe we are weeks, not months away from making meaningful modifications (to business restrictions),” Newsom said. ” … You’ll ask me, ‘Well, is weeks one week or three weeks?’ Weeks, not months, again based upon the data, based upon the indicators.”
He noted that the pace of COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases in the state is stable, but it still isn’t declining.
“We’re still by no stretch of the imagination out of the woods there,” he said. “It’s just stable. We’re not seeing substantial declines, but again Californians know we never experienced the big surge that other parts of the globe and certainly other parts of our country had, but the stabilization is a point of some cautious optimism.”
He outlined a four-phase approach to business reopening, saying the state is now in the first phase, which is building up hospital capacity and supplies of protective equipment while developing guidelines for the various business sectors to ensure companies have adequate protections in place for workers and customers.
The second phase would be a reopening of lower-risk businesses, such as retail establishments with curbside pickup, manufacturing and offices. Following in the third phase would be higher-risk companies such as hair salons, movie theaters and religious institutions. Last would be the highest- risk operations, such as stadiums, convention centers and concert venues.
“I want to caution everybody, if we pull back too quickly and we walk away from our incredible commitment to not only bend this curve but to stop the spread and suppress the spread of this virus, it could start a second wave that could be even more damaging than the first and undo all of the good work and progress that you’ve made. … The virus has not gone away. Its virulence is still as acute. Its ability to be transmitted still is dominant. We by no stretch are out of the woods.”
Newsom also touched on the state’s schools, noting that even though remote learning is being utilized, there has been a “learning loss.” In response, he said the state is considering starting the next school year earlier, possibly in late July or early August.
The governor said that while the state will be issuing guidelines for loosening of health orders, he will not be “preempting” local jurisdictions from imposing more stringent orders as they see fit.
“I am going to respect that,” he said.