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California governor allows some retail reopening with limits

Higher-risk businesses like hair salons and gyms, offices and dining in restaurants will come later.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued the broadest loosening of his stay-at-home order so far, allowing some retailers to reopen but not have customers in stores. 

The announcement Thursday was the result of improvement in battling the coronavirus, and it moves California into the second phase of a methodical four-step process to full reopening. 

It covers only a sliver of retail businesses as well as manufacturers' warehouses considered low risk for the virus. 

Stores that will be allowed to open with curbside service if they meet other safety requirements include bookstores, clothing stores, florists and sporting goods stores. Higher-risk businesses like hair salons and gyms, offices and dining in restaurants will come later.  

Phase One

Phase one is the phase we are currently are in, but is expected to end on Friday, May 8. This phase is all about safety and preparedness. Essential businesses, like pharmacies and grocery stores, needed to take steps to address physical and workflow adaption, establish an essential workforce safety net in case workers get sick, and make PPE more widely available.

Phase Two

Newsom announced that phase two will begin on May 8 in California, which will allow some industries, like manufacturing, to reopen with safety modifications in place. People should still telecommute to work if at all possible.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services, said California can now move into phase two since hospital data has shown a range of stability.

Ghaly said stage two doesn’t mean COVID-19 is any less dangerous. 

“COVID-19 is still spreading,” said Ghaly.

Businesses that fall under the “stage two” category will have to make some safety changes in order to reopen. These include hands-free devices for payment, curbside pickup while employees wear gloves and a mask, closing smaller indoor break rooms and using outdoor break rooms with physically-distanced seating instead, and warehouses having PPE (personal protective equipment) and sanitation materials for their employees.

Not on Friday - but later on in phase two - offices, seated dining at restaurants, shopping malls, and outdoor museums can reopen, but Ghaly said that will come when data supports it.

Ghaly and Newsom said each industry and business should make a detailed risk assessment plan, train employees, and have a sanitized site-specific protection plan. 

Galley discussed regional variance. This means some counties, if they have data to support the decision, can move further into phase two. This will depend on epidemiological stability, protecting workers, testing capacity, and containment capacity. There must be at least 15 contract tracers per 100,000 residents in the county in question and no COVID-19 deaths within the last 14 days countywide. Nursing facilities must have "more than a 14 day supply" of PPE (personal protective equipment) ready for staff with ongoing procurement from non-state supply chains. 

Lastly, the county must have the ability to adjust modifications to slow the reopening pace if need be. California is building a state team to help out the counties and make sure the criteria is met. 

Newsom said each individual business should review the safety plans.

“Businesses are very different, even within sectors,” said Newsom. 

The state has available checklists that are encouraged for businesses, but not mandatory, to post to show customers what is being done and make them feel safe. 

Phase Three

Phase three, which there is not a specific start date for at this time, will include the opening of higher-risk workplaces. These include personal care places (hair and nail salons), entertainment venues (movie theaters, sporting events without live spectators), and in-person religious services such as churches and weddings.

Phase Four

Phase four is the final phase which would be the end of the stay-at-home order. This would allow the reopening of the highest risk workplaces such as concert venues, convention centers, and sports with live spectators. There is a not a specific date in mind for the beginning of phase four at this time. 

You can watch the entire press conference here. 

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