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Coronavirus Update: Newsom Says California 'Weeks, Not Months' Away From Opening Some Businesses, Schools

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom offered additional details Tuesday on plans for the state's economic recovery from the effects of coronavirus pandemic, saying some businesses, schools and child care facilities could be weeks away from reopening.


Newsom said Tuesday progress had been made in each of the six key indicators to that would lead to the shelter-in-place order being lifted in California, leading to some cautious optimism about the ability to begin the process of modifying the stay-at-home order. But he warned that Californians need to keep up with the practices that have gotten the state to the point where modifications are now within reach.

SLIDESHOW: California Officials Outline Steps To Ending Coronavirus Shelter Order

"I want to caution everybody, if we pull back too quickly ... it could start a second wave that could do even more damage than the first," said Newsom. "The virus has not gone away. There's durability to this virus, and there may be -- we'll see -- seasonality."

After going over some of the other indicators that are impacting the current shelter order and the progress being made in those areas, Newsom turned his focus on the ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing.

"We believe we are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications to that indicator," Newsom said.

Physical and environmental changes would be required in businesses, schools and child care facilities to protect all workers, customers and students. We are not going back to the way things were until we get the kind of immunity that all of us look forward to or vaccine that we look forward to," said Newsom.

State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell said any modifications to the stay-at-home order would be guided with the knowledge that COVID-19 is not going away soon, modifications to the order would be guided by health risk and a commitment to equity, and the responsibility to move ahead needs to be taken by everyone - individuals, businesses and government.

Angell listed four stages of businesses to adapt and modify to reopen in California, of which the state is currently in Stage 1:

  1. Safety and Preparedness - making essential workforce environments as safe as possible
  2. Lower Risk Workplaces - retail/manufacturing/offices/public spaces; modified schools and childcare facilities
  3. Higher Risk Workplaces - gyms/spas/salons, other activities with close contact
  4. Ending Stay-At-Home Order - conventions, entertainment venues, large public gatherings

To move ahead from Stage 1, Angell indicated that would be determined by having adequate testing, contact tracing, PPE and hospital surge capacity available, as well as making adaptations to workplaces and reinforcing behavioral changes.

In Stage 2, Angell said businesses with lower risk would be able to reopen once adaptations had been made. Those businesses include some retail (particularly cases where curbside pick-up is an option), manufacturing and offices (when telework is not an option).

Dr. Angell said the transition to Stage 2 would occur through a statewide modification to the state's stay-at-home order, though there would be subsequent room for some regional adaptation and modification to restrictions after Stage 2 was reached.

Newsom indicated there have also been discussions about beginning the next school year earlier because of the concern over learning loss from being out of the school environment for so long.

"We recognize there has been a learning loss because of this disruption. We're concerned about this learning loss, even into the summer," said Newsom. "So we are considering the prospect of an even earlier school year into the fall; as early as late July or early August."

Newsom said as always, the state would be guided by data and science, and would not be driven by politics or protests. Reopening businesses and modifying the stay-at-home orders will require major changes to the way people are used to doing things.

"I deeply want to emphasize the importance of protecting customers and of course, workers," explained Newsom. "We're trying to provide that over the next few weeks, so they can start to plan and look at their own supply chains, look at their own ability to change the physical and environmental in their businesses and look at the guidelines that we'll be advancing very specifically and prescriptively, sector by sector, for guidance of what we can do and what we can't do."

Newsom said California is averaging more than 20,000 tests per day, but the state's goal remains at 60,000 to 80,000 tests daily. In total, some 570,000 tests have been completed throughout the state.

In regards to the state's coronavirus case numbers, California saw a 3.6 percent increase in the total number of cases to 45,031 as of Tuesday. Deaths in the state increased 3.1 percent to a total of 1,809 casualties from COVID-19 with 54 new deaths since Monday.

While there was a 2.5 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations, Newsom noted that the number of patients in ICU remained flat.

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