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California Loosens Counties' Reopening Requirements

Los Angeles shoppers wait in line to enter Whole Foods Market. LA County is one of the only regions in California that has elected to not enter a phase two reopening.
Damian Dovarganes
Los Angeles shoppers wait in line to enter Whole Foods Market. LA County is one of the only regions in California that has elected to not enter a phase two reopening.

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced during his daily coronavirus press briefing an updated set of public health benchmarks that counties must meet to move further into reopening their economies.

These more permissive thresholds could allow 53 of the state's 58 counties to reopen more parts of the economy, he said, speaking to reporters at a Napa Valley restaurant.

In announcing the decision, Newsom cited statewide trends; hospitalizations declined by over 7% in the last two weeks and the number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units also fell by nearly 9%. He also said the state has conducted over a million tests, and bolstered its tracing capacity in recent weeks.

"The one size does not fit all," Newsom said Monday, "We recognize the conditions across the state are unique and distinctive depending where you are across the state."

Regions still have to go through a certification process, but the new reopening thresholds are markedly less strict than the guidelines laid out earlier this month.

To advance further into reopening, counties will have to certify the following:

  • No greater than 5% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over a 7-day period
  • Less than 8% of residents test positive for coronavirus over a 7-day period
  • Counties could chose to show instead that in the last 14-day period, there were no more than 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations on any single day. Regions can also show they've had fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days.

    Previously, that standard was one case per 10,000 residents. The governor also dropped the requirement that regions have no COVID-19-related deaths over a two-week period.

    Excluding Los Angeles and Sacramento counties, most of the state has chosen to enter into a Stage 2 reopening, which allows places such as book, clothing, toy and sporting goods stores, as well as music shops and florists to deliver to customers at the curb.

    Twenty-four California counties have moved into Expanded Stage 2, according to Newsom.

    The later phase of Stage 2 allows dine-in restaurants, shopping centers, community centers and schools to reopen with modifications.

    Even though the state is loosening reopening requirements, counties are able to keep their current local stay-at-home guidelines.

    Newsom also hinted that in the next few weeks, in-store retail, sporting events without spectators, hair salons and religious services could reopen statewide, with modifications.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Hannah Hagemann is a 2019 Kroc Fellow. During her fellowship, she will work at NPR's National Desk and Weekend Edition.