Newsom unveils new reopening rules for schools and businesses

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Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new plan on Friday to revive a California economy decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a four-tier system in which counties must succeed in stemming the transmission of the coronavirus before allowing businesses more flexibility to reopen and group activities to resume.In doing so, Newsom took a much more cautious approach than its first effort in the spring, when its decision to quickly relax restrictions led to such a large increase in cases that it forced another nationwide shutdown. ‘State.

“We’re going to be more stubborn this time around,” Newsom said at a press conference in Sacramento on Friday. “It’s a stricter approach, but we believe it is more stable.”

Counties will be allowed to ease restrictions in gradual stages, slowly granting Californians the daily freedoms they enjoyed before the outbreak. Unlike last time, the governor said the decision to grant counties the ability to open businesses will be based entirely on data showing the spread of the virus among residents.

The criteria for each level will be uniform for all 58 counties in California, and the vast majority of counties – including all counties in Southern California except San Diego – will start in the first level.

  • Level 1, generalized transmission: Most non-essential businesses must be closed. Counties at this level have more than seven new cases of COVID per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus test positivity rate of 8% and above.
  • Level 2, substantial transmission: Some non-essential domestic businesses remain closed. Counties at this level have between four and seven cases of COVID per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus test positivity rate of between 5% and 8%.
  • Tier 3, moderate transmission: Some companies can open with modifications. Counties at this level have 1 to 3.9 new cases of COVID per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positivity rate of 2 to 4.9 percent.
  • Tier 4, transmission minimale: Most businesses can reopen, with modifications. Counties at this level have less than one new case of COVID per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positivity rate of less than 2%.

For example, restaurants in level 1 counties will only be allowed to serve outside customers. Once a county is upgraded to level 2, restaurants can serve customers inside, but only at 25% capacity.

The new rules also provide a new path towards the partial reopening of schools in some communities. School officials in the 20 counties listed in the new state structure as having “substantial”, “moderate” or “minimal” virus transmission will be able to offer limited in-person instruction on school campuses once. that these counties will retain this status for at least 14 days. Counties with even fewer incidences of confirmed COVID-19 cases and lower test positivity rates could allow students to return to campus part-time even sooner.

But the impact of the new rules on K-12 education, for now, is minimal. Most counties would still not be allowed to offer face-to-face classes to kindergarten to grade 12 students. Those who can move forward are subject to rules put in place by Newsom last month, according to which outbreaks can shut down individual classrooms on a campus or – if larger – an entire school district.

The new reopening rules require counties to wait at least 21 days before moving to the next reopening level. If a county has reached the parameters for reopening, which will be based on cases per 100,000 population and the number of positive COVID results per 100,000 people tested, for the next step for at least two consecutive weeks, they will be allowed to move on to l ‘next step. at the end of the 21 day waiting period. Otherwise, they will have to stay in place until they meet the next level criteria for two consecutive weeks.

The governor’s office said the seven-day averages will be calculated every Tuesday but will be based on data from a full week earlier to give counties time to report up-to-date information.

Newsom’s decision to override its initial spring reopening plan comes after it was criticized for allowing counties to reopen too quickly.

That plan, which was announced in May, relied on local authorities to attest to their own willingness to reopen. But instead of requiring counties to meet the criteria set out in its plan, Newsom allowed dozens of counties to move forward as long as local authorities said they could increase testing capacity or train more contact tracers in the weeks and months following the opening of company doors.

The virus exploded, counties were not ready to conduct the necessary case investigation and contact tracing, and California and other states across the country have experienced a massive testing shortage.

“It has reduced the effectiveness of our efforts to kill the virus,” Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) said of the governor’s postponement to counties when first reopening. “It’s too easy for local officials to embrace the lure of making choices that people love and avoid the anger that comes from telling people things they can’t do.”

In the past, Newsom blamed the outbreak on county officials. He said the state would only allow counties to reopen if authorities can prove that COVID-19-related hospitalizations have stabilized, that medical centers, nursing homes and other essential services have adequate protective equipment and that they were ready to receive and care for an increase in the number of patients affected by the virus. Meeting those reopening standards was the responsibility of the counties, not the state, Newsom said.

In recent weeks, counties have complained about the lack of direction and communication from the governor and the California Department of Public Health on the way forward. Thirty-four counties that were on the state’s watch list on Friday morning were forced to close businesses after local reopenings resulted in increased community spread of COVID-19, increased hospitalizations or limited hospital capacity.

But nine other counties reduced the spread of the virus and were taken off the watch list, only to find themselves in limbo pending further instructions from Newsom on when and how they could start reopening businesses.

Delayed information from the Newsom administration, which left some counties embarrassed for nearly two weeks, has added to growing frustration among local officials over sometimes incomplete guidelines and poor communication from Sacramento since the start of the campaign. pandemic.

Los Angeles County has remained on the state’s watch list since its announcement in June, but the total number of cases continues to drop every week. The seven-day positive infection rate is currently 5.7%, and this week the 14-day average infection rate in LA County fell below 200 cases per 100,000 – a threshold that would allow the county to grant waivers to certain person learner schools. Although that number has continued to drop, county health officials have said he is not prepared to grant waivers.

The number of cases in LA County, which totals more than 237,000 and accounts for the bulk of the state’s total infections, jumped in June after the county quickly reopened various sectors of the economy after months of closures. Transmission from Memorial Day weekend activities and other informal gatherings has also contributed to an increase in cases statewide.

At the same time, mass protests against the death of George Floyd erupted. Officials said these outdoor protests did not contribute to the massive surge in new coronavirus infections. Yet, it is impossible for officials to trace cases that originate from public spaces.

The surge in cases and hospitalizations statewide continued after the weekend of July 4, followed by a backlog of case reports that sent daily infections into record territory. Those numbers have only just started to drop in recent weeks, as have the number of hospitalizations in California.

The new state guidelines come as protests have once again emerged after police shot and injured a black man in Wisconsin, Jacob Blake, and in the run-up to Labor Day.

State health and social services director Dr Mark Ghaly said on Tuesday Labor Day was not the only factor in the new guidelines, but the increase in transmission during the holidays poses a problem as California continues to fight to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. In Orange County, for example, mass rallies on beaches over Memorial Day weekend are believed to have played a role in the county’s rise in numbers.

According to archival data from the California Department of Public Health, 11 counties have never been on the state watch list – Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou , Trinity and Tuolumne.

Times writer John Myers contributed to this report.

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