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California relaxes some criteria for reopening

Posted at 1:06 PM, May 18, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed county reopening criteria on Monday, a move he said will allow most of the state’s 58 counties to begin allowing dining in restaurants and other services.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.

The new criteria he outlined applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state. While retail may open for curbside pickup statewide, restrictions on dining in at restaurants and other services are still in place statewide. Counties can move faster if they win state approval.

Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California already won approval under the old guidance.

The new criteria eliminates requirements that a county have zero deaths and no more than than one case per 10,000 residents over a two-week period. Instead, counties must have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or no higher than an 8% positive rate among people testing for the coronavirus. They also must have no higher than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a 7-day period or fewer than 20 hospitalizations total over 14 days. The latter will ensure small counties don’t get penalized for just one or two extra hospitalizations.

Newsom also said counties will soon be able to allow shopping in stores and hair salons to reopen. He also suggested professional sports could begin in June without spectators. He said the reopening of churches could begin within weeks.

Following the governor's announcement Monday, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) released the following statement:

Today’s announcement is a major victory for the people of the Central Coast. We’ve been pushing for regional variance to the statewide ‘Safer-At-Home’ order since April 20 [] in order to implement a science-based, phased reopening of the local economy. San Luis Obispo County had flattened the curve and augmented its local hospital capacity with a 931-bed Alternative Care Site – we’ve been ready for nearly a month.

The Governor’s original criteria provided no hope to millions of Californians. Public health officials called it ‘unreasonable’ [] and ‘insurmountable [],’ while an L.A. Times analysis [] showed that 95 percent of Californians live in counties that could not meet the original criteria. It was past time to give counties the ability to start a phased reopening under the direction and guidance of their own local public health officials.

Today is a day of hope and renewal. We will begin the work of safely reopening - guided by science - and protecting our vulnerable populations. We have asked our residents to make incredible sacrifices over the past two months. They have risen to the challenge at enormous personal cost. Now we can begin to rebuild our lives and our communities under our own control. And together we will rebuild.”