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California has paused its reopening plans and won’t move forward “anytime soon”

“We are at pause, have been for over a week now.”

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

California had been barreling forward with its reopening plans earlier in the month and allowed businesses like gyms, hotels, museums and bars to once again open their doors. But things quieted down recently—when Disneyland announced that it was delaying its reopening, its statement specifically said that California had yet to issue guidance for theme parks. Now we know why: The state has paused issuing guidance for new industries to reopen.

“We are at pause, have been for over a week now,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in an address on Friday. “And there’s nothing to suggest, based upon the criteria and conditions and those trend lines that are developing in the headlines across this nation but subsequently here in the state as well, that we’ll be moving anytime soon by pushing further with those protocols and those announcements.”

“Guidelines don’t mean go,” he said. “Guidelines are how to safely reopen. We allow that determination at the local level of when to move forward… We have delayed those guidelines.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean the state will move its existing guidelines backwards, though. When asked if he would “toggle back” reopening plans statewide, Newsom specifically pointed to San Francisco, which has reversed course on plans to reopen bars and other businesses on Monday, as a model. “California is not one size fits all,” he said, and noted that different parts of the state will continue to move at different paces, including the ability to revert to more restrictive orders. When asked if he’d consider a statewide “toggling back,” Newsom again just pointed to pausing statewide reopening plans and reinforcing county and city actions, but noted that the state reserved to right to “make that determination in real time.”

The news came as California reported 4,890 new coronavirus cases and 79 deaths on Friday, as well as a modest increase in hospitalizations (3.3%) and ICU patients (4.4%). Positivity rates—which compare the number of newly confirmed cases to the total number of people tested—have increased by two tenths of a percentage point to 5.3% for the last 14 days, and to 5.7% over the past seven days. After consulting with county health departments, the state believes that protests have contributed to these recent increases, but also notes that these jumps occurred at the same time as parts of the economy began reopening and people (particularly younger people) started going out more—making it difficult to distinguish between them.

In California, 15 counties—including Los Angeles—have seen a deterioration in any number of metrics that have landed them on a watchlist, which denotes counties where the state is working more closely to curb infections. That includes Imperial County, where the 14-day positivity rate is approaching 23%. “We are now in a position where we are working with [Imperial] County officials and advising them to pull back and once again reinstitute their stay-at-home orders,” Newsom said. The governor continued that he’d let the county sort out that process over the next few das, but if they can’t come to a consensus he said he was “committed to intervening” (i.e. the governor’s office ordering them to return to stay-at-home).

Imperial County’s return to a stay-at-home order seems to reinforce the governor’s stance of tackling spikes in infections county by county rather than statewide. “Cities and counties large and small, that have unique and distinctive concerns, we encourage them to act… To the extent they don’t, we will advise, as we have in Imperial County, that they do and we’ll reserve the right and our authority as a state to pull back.”

Finally, Newsom reminds Californians to keep wearing masks, which was recently required statewide. “These trend lines… are disturbing, and that’s why I cannot impress upon people more to wear these masks when they cannot practice physical distancing,” he said.

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