On Friday, California entered Phase 2 of its 4 Phase reopening plan, lifting some retail and manufacturing sector restrictions and allowing cities and counties who meet certain criteria to open up even more.
Phase 2 reopening
Retailers such as stores that sell clothes, sporting goods, books, flowers, and toys can now have curbside service alongside already operating essential businesses. However, to reopen, stores will need to follow state health guidelines. Face masks and gloves will be required for all employees, with customers requiring a mask as well. All stores must have a hands-free system of payment installed for cash and non-online or separate device credit cards. Lines need to follow the six feet rule, and hand sanitizer must be provided outside for all employees and customers to use.
Meanwhile, all manufacturers, with an emphasis on those who supply goods to essential or recently reopened businesses, will also have to follow a certain set of rules when reopening. Employees must follow social distancing and wear all appropriate PPE such as gloves and masks. All delivery trucks will need proper sanitation materials inside. Indoor break rooms will not be allowed at any setting, factory or warehouse. Only outdoor break areas that follow safe social distancing will be allowed. Employees will also need to go through sanitation training, change cleaning protocols to better handle any possible coronavirus spread, and implement temperature checks of employees.
While this is the beginning of Phase 2, the coming weeks can open up even more businesses such as dine-in restaurants, malls, and some museums as a ‘bridge’ between Phase 2 and Phase 3.
Cities and counties hoping to reopen more
Cities and counties wishing to open up even more can also do so now, but they must meet a strict set of criteria. Among the criteria are having less than 1 in 10,000 residents contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus and not having a coronavirus-related death in the last two weeks; giving mandatory support and supplies to essential workers; having at least 1 in every 500 residents being tested for coronavirus; hospital and nursing PPE requirements; and needing to have at least 15% of the homeless population in housing.
On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom outlined all the state’s Phase 2 plans in a speech, noting that further re-openings are contingent on continued decreases in the number of coronavirus cases.
“These counties that want to move deeper into the second phase have to do so with concurrence with their hospital systems, board of supervisors. We’re interested in their argument and will try to provide some flexibility. But it’s a health-first frame,” stated Governor Newsom.
Modoc County, Sutter County, and Yuba County ignored the Governor for the last week and have reopened their counties in full, including full-service restaurants, albeit with PPE and social distancing rules in place. The Governor has since decried the counties reopenings as a public health risk and state agencies have begun targeting and threatening some local businesses to close or face consequences such as permits being revoked.
Los Angeles and San Francisco to delay Phase 2 reopenings
Some areas, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, will not be fully implementing Phase 2 right away. Los Angeles County will only start some curbside shops to open while also reopening up places that already social distance such as golf courses and hiking trails, while the city itself will remain in lockdown.
“We want to make sure that we don’t do something reckless, and say, ‘Hey, we got out there a week or two weeks early,’ just to score political points,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a press conference on Tuesday.
San Francisco will also have a delayed opening, with a current May 18th planned date to implement Phase 2 re-openings.
“Giving businesses the option to reopen and provide storefront pickup will provide some relief for everyone in our city – allowing some people to get back to work, while still protecting public health,” noted San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a statement earlier this week. “The last thing we want is to see a spike in the number of cases or hospitalizations, so we’re going to be keeping close track of our key Covid-19 indicators and will be ready to make any adjustment needed to keep our community healthy.”
A hopeful economic turnaround
The re-openings, spurred by lowering coronavirus numbers in the state, have been hoped by many to help turn the economy around and reduce unemployment in the state.
“Reopening is very important,” explained economics consultant William “Bill” Jager to the Globe on Thursday. “First off, businesses will reopen. That’s huge. Even if it’s pickup only, that means cash starts flowing again and the wheels of the economy start spinning a little faster. It will also lessen the need for unemployment as people go back to work, giving California a little relief there. Those Northern counties that reopened have already begun proving that.”
“There’s also the morale standpoint. People have been cooped up, and this will help bring some normalcy back to people’s lives. It’s a huge mental block to lift to go back to work in any capacity.”
“It’s too late to turn around this year into the black, but if we keep reopening across the state, we can lessen that blow. As long as California keeps up safe coronavirus practices, we’ll finally see something of an economic rebound.”
Phase 2 extensions, and a possible Phase 3 opening which would include movie theaters, places of worship, and sports events without fans, are currently expected to be implemented by the summer as long as coronavirus figures continue to improve.