Newsom announces some counties can move forward with reopening

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that many counties will be able to move deeper into Phase 2 of reopening in the coming weeks. 

“We are moving forward to allow some of the larger counties to continue to make progress deeper into Phase 2, and to do so effective immediately but on their own pace,” he said. “I say effective immediately, meaning the guidelines are out there … but they can go at their own pace. We estimate, roughly … 53 of the 58 counties would be eligible to move into this phase. Again, not everyone will move into this phase, and that eligibility is conditioned on the criteria that we’re putting out.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services, added that some of these requirements include: 

  • No greater than 5% increase in hospitalizations over the past seven days on average, or no more than 20 people hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout the county in any one of the last 14 days.
  • No more than 25 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, per hundred thousand residents in the county, over the past 14 days, or having a test positivity rate of less than 8%.
  • Having testing capacity of at least 1.5 tests, per thousand people per day, or having 15 individuals in the county trained and doing contact tracing per 100,000 residents in the county.
  • Attest that they have the ability to protect their essential workforce and skilled nursing facilities.
  • Demonstrate the ability to maintain a surge capacity adequate to respond to the needs of potentially a growing number of individuals who need care for COVID-19.

“I want to reinforce that just because we’re creating the capacity and the availability to move into Phase 2 doesn’t mean that every county is ready,” Newsom added. “L.A. County, as an example, I imagine will be cautious in that respect.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 data shows that, cumulatively, the county currently has an 11% positivity rate, though last week’s positivity rate was at 8%. L.A. County has yet to file an attestation with the state that it has met the readiness criteria.

“We appreciate it that the state’s relaxing the criteria that can be used by counties across the state to request a variance that would allow us to move faster through Stage 2,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health, said during the county’s daily news briefing. “It has a lot of conditions that you need to actually attest to in order to be able to get a variance, but I know that our staff are looking at it now. And if we’re eligible, of course we would also be applying just to allow us to make a decision based upon local conditions. It doesn’t tell you what you have to do, it just allows you more flexibility, so we appreciate the governor and his staff for, in fact, issuing new guidance on the variance requests.” 

While it is still unclear whether L.A. County is being included in these counties that are eligible to begin reopening as of the publication of this story, modifications, including sporting events without audiences and in-store retail shopping, are expected to be made statewide in early June, Newsom said.

“We are confident that we can begin to do this in a safe and modulated way, that we can come back to you in the next many weeks with additional sectors, and the guidelines for those sectors to open back up,” Ghaly added.

This comes after California has seen a decline in hospitalizations by 7.5% in the last 14 days, as well as an 8.7% decline in the number of ICU patients in the same period, while at least 10 million masks were distributed statewide, Newsom said.

“All of these things matter,” Newsom added. “The (personal protective equipment)  is foundational to furthering our efforts to make meaningful modifications to the stay-at-home order.”

In addition, the state has made strides toward testing capacity and contact tracing, which Newsom said also are vital in making these adjustments to the restrictions. 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

To view the county’s COVID-19 data, visit dashboard.publichealth.lacounty.gov

To view all coronavirus-related stories, visit signalscv.com/category/news/coronavirus.

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