Newsom Loosens Some Reopening Rules; Could Sports Return in June?

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Citing decreasing coronavirus hospitalization and ICU rates, Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced a relaxation of restrictions that could allow more businesses to reopen more quickly in a majority of the state's counties, but Los Angeles County will likely be unable to move much faster.

Newsom also said that if the current trends continue, the state may be able to significantly ease restrictions statewide in the next few weeks, possibly allowing professional sporting events to resume without spectators and hair salons to reopen in June.

Under the new rules announced Monday, Newsom said roughly 53 of the state's 58 counties would likely qualify to move deeper into Phase Two of the state's recovery roadmap, allowing more businesses in those counties to open faster than in other counties.

Such openings, however, would be contingent on the impacts of the virus in individual counties, meaning Los Angeles County -- which has been more dramatically impacted by COVID-19, representing half of the state's COVID-19 cases and deaths -- could move significantly slower in reopening more businesses.

“L.A. County is in a different position than other parts of the state,” Newsom said, singling out the county as one that will likely “be cautious” in relaxing local restrictions.

Officials in many parts of the state -- including Orange County -- have been pushing to reopen more sectors of their economies. Officials in Orange, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties recently teamed up to ask the governor for the ability to more deeper into Phase Two.

But local officials have pointed to what they viewed as unrealistic benchmarks counties needed to meet to accelerate business reopenings. One of those guidelines mandated that counties have no deaths from COVID-19 for a two- week period.

Newsom announced looser restrictions Monday, with requirements including that counties have no more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a seven-day period, no more than 8% of people tested for coronavirus turning out to be positive and have 15 trained contract-tracing workers per 100,000 population.

The governor said he was encouraged by recent statistics that have shown a 7.5% decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations over the past two weeks, an 8.7% decline in intensive-care unit patients in that same period and an “unprecedented number of masks” and other personal protective equipment being distributed throughout the state.

He said those trends prompted the relaxation of rules for individual counties to move forward with more business reopenings. And he said if the trend continues, more statewide restrictions could be lifted in the coming weeks -- potentially leading to professional sports resuming in June.

“We are also looking forward in the next few weeks at a number of significant milestones that are worthy of highlighting,” he said. “We expect if we hold the rate of transmissions, if we hold the positivity rate down, we continue to do justice to the hospitalization and ICU numbers, we'll be making announcements statewide ... that would allow for retail not just to be picked up, but in-store retail to be loosened up.

“In addition to that sporting events, pro sports, in that first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions also can begin to move forward and a number of other sectors of our economy, will open up ... if we hold these trendlines in the next number of weeks. That includes, for example, getting a haircut, which is very meaningful. That could be done on a regional variance but it will be able to be advanced we believe in the next few weeks even statewide.”

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