California Reopening Plans Proceed to Second Phase

Inigo Lintag, News Editor

   As areas in California begin to see some improvement in the number of cases of COVID-19, local governments begin to reopen according to the phases outlined by Governor Gavin Newsom.

   According to the New York Times, in April, the state government created a framework that outlined the phases in which businesses statewide would reopen. Earlier this month, the state surpassed “Stage 1.” During this stage only the very essential businesses were allowed to operate; these included businesses like pharmacies, gas stations, and grocery stores. Stay-at-home orders were given and (apart from the essential workers doing their jobs and essential activities such as grocery shopping) people were advised not to go outside (

   As of May 8, California has entered into the first phase of the second stage of the social distancing framework. According to California’s official COVID-19 website, some other nonessential businesses were allowed to reopen. These businesses included retail (such as bookstores and jewelry stores) and “limited services” that didn’t require physical contact (plumbing and pet grooming, for example). Businesses that were to remain closed included bars and clubs, gyms, and hair/nail salons (

   In the later phase of Stage 2, businesses such as dine-in restaurants and schools may reopen but this may change according to future conditions. Looking further into the future, during Stage 3, higher-risk businesses (such as movie theaters) should be able to reopen and during Stage 4, the stay-at-home order will be suspended altogether ( 

     Although schools are projected to reopen later in this phase, state officials have said that “…barring a vaccine or herd immunity, schools won’t be able to open to students until everyone — kids, teachers, and staff — can be safe.” However, according to the New York Times, there is the possibility of a staggered (one day on, one day off) schedule (

   Public recreational areas have also partially opened during this phase. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, golf courses, beaches, parks, hiking trails, fields, and tennis courts in San Diego County have been allowed to reopen. Among these, however, areas such as pools are still closed not because of heightened transmission risks (the CDC has said that there is no evidence that the virus spreads through chlorinated water), because these areas put people in close contact and attract a large amount of traffic (  

   Although a framework has been put in place, the entirety of California will not be opening up at the exact same rate. Governor Gavin Newsome has issued a “State Report Card.” This report card scores six metrics that determine whether or not it is safe to move on to the next phase in the framework ( 

   These metrics are Stability of Hospitalizations (the rate at which hospitalizations are increasing and/or decreasing), Personal Protective Equipment Inventory (how much personal protective equipment is available statewide), Health Care Surge Capacity (the ability for hospitals to take care of more patients should a surge in cases occur), Testing Capacity (how many tests state/local authorities are able to administer), Contact Tracing Capability (the ability for the state to “retrace” the sources of cases and determine the origin and people potentially affected), and Public Health Guidance in Place (education about safety standards available to the public) (

   Although the state may be in a particular phase, different areas will have different conditions, and local officials are allowed to “add” further precautions according to these conditions. While one area may be fairly open, a more severely affected area will have more strict standards ( 

   Regardless of orders from the state government, one city has been able to get around the stay-at-home order and reopen. According to KPBS, the Central California city of Atwater with a 30,000 person population has declared itself a “Sanctuary” from the stay-at-home order. Churches, parks, and businesses in that city have reopened entirely. Some less densely populated areas further north in California have had very few cases so transmission in those areas may be easier to avoid ( 

   According to Senior Nhulong Vo, “Some of us choose to stay in to protect our families, and some of us choose to go out to feed our families. Whether or not we reopen now is a question I do not know the answer to, but I do know that that decision belongs to the American people.”