On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced in Sacramento that the state lockdown will begin to end in only a matter of weeks, fulfilling a prediction he made in March about the lockdown possibly lasting until June.
A 4-stage plan
Governor Newsom outlined a 4 stage plan to bring California back to normal. Newsom confirmed that the state is currently on Stage 1, which means staying at home, flattening the coronavirus curve, building healthcare capacity, and preparing businesses and schools for reopening through new guidelines. Stage 2 will come online in California in a few weeks, with retail, manufacturing, offices, child care, possible limited school re-openings, and public spaces being opened to varying degrees, such as retail being allowed only curbside pick-up and offices being allowed to reopen when teleworking isn’t available.
Newsom also confirmed that a full reopening was dependent on either COVID-19 immunity setting in or a vaccine being produced.
“We are not going back to the way things were until we get to immunity or a vaccine,” stated Newsom during the press conference. “We will base reopening plans on facts and data, not on ideology. Not what we want. Not what we hope.”
“We believe we are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications,” added Newsom.
Newsom’s announcement comes less than a day after similar reopening announcements from states such as Texas and cities such as Los Angeles. In some cases, such as with Los Angeles, gradual stages like California’s plan will be implemented.
The different phases in California’s plan may lead to some unusual reopening timelines dependent on if coronavirus cases remain stable. Governor Newsom specifically mentioned schools reopening in phase 2 and beyond meaning a start date as early as July or August to make up for any lost education.
“We recognize there’s been a learning loss because of this disruption,” Newsom said. “We might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit. That learning loss is very real.”
Movie theaters, places of worship, and sports events without fans may also not be allowed to reopen until the summer as well, as they are part of Phase 3. Any event with a large number of people, which includes concerts, sports events, and conventions, will be dependent on the immunity or vaccine requirement, of which there is currently no definite timeline to.
Lessons from other states reopening and past outbreaks in California
“California will be keeping an eye on other states that are doing a full reopening,” noted event coordinator Madeline Kowalski, who helps coordinate and plan events across 12 states and 2 Canadian provinces. “All eyes are going to Southern states that are opening a lot of things at once. If the coronavirus spreads like it was before, we’ll know in a few weeks. And that’s about the time California gave.”
“California is playing it safe, but they also have a lot more to risk. They also have huge urban sprawls that no urban area this side of the Mississippi has. They don’t want a New York size outbreak to happen.”
“A lot of people in California are frustrated, want to go back to work, and generally resume life, and [Governor Newsom] isn’t backing down due to the protests happening. I have 5 projects in Los Angeles and Santa Monica alone on hold, but I also want to make sure it’s safe for employees here.”
“We’re hurting financially, but not as many are dying. California needs to reopen soon, I agree, but it can’t all be at once or we’ll be right back where we started.”
While many in California say the gradual phases are due to learning from past outbreaks, as in the 1918 and 1919 large second wave of Spanish Flu cases, todays epidemiologists say it’s not a reasonable comparison since we did not have antibiotics and the plethora of modern medicines and vaccines that we have today. Masks and restrictions were not the issue because as epidemiologists say, keeping people restricted at home only lengthens the duration of the virus, and most masks do little to keep virus-infected droplets out of the mouth, nose and eyes.
Currently, 45,031 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in California, with 1,809 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. which ravaged San Francisco after the city gave a reopening order too soon and residents challenged mandatory mask orders. Masks and other restrictions subsequently became the normal going into the next decade.