NAPA VALLEY Calif. (AP/KRON) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a dramatic move that will allow most of the state’s 58 counties to begin reopening their local economies amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.

The new criteria would let counties seek state approval to allow dining-in restaurants and other services that have been banned since late March to resume.

Many counties already allow retail businesses to offer curbside pickup.

The governor also suggested it may be a matter of weeks before Californians can get a haircut or attend a church service, both of which have become a flash point in the fight over reopening.

A decline in state hospitalizations in the last two weeks, the distribution of more personal protective equipment and the state’s increased testing ability are all positive trend lines that allowed the state to relax its criteria, he said.

The move comes after large counties, particularly in Southern California, had called the earlier criteria too restrictive and had urged Newsom to relax the guidelines.

“Just because we’re creating the capacity and the availability to move into Phase 2 doesn’t mean that every county is ready,” Newsom said. “Los Angeles County, as an example, I imagine will be cautious if that respect.”

Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California already won approval under the old guidance.

The new criteria eliminate requirements that a county have no deaths and no more than than 10 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.

Instead, counties must have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or no higher than an 8% positive rate among people tested for the coronavirus.

They also must have no higher than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a one week period or no more than 20 people hospitalized per day over a two week period.

The latter will ensure small counties don’t get penalized for just one or two extra hospitalizations.

Newsom did not specify which of the state’s 58 counties he expected would not meet his criteria.

Los Angeles County, the state’s most populous and with the most coronavirus cases, faces broader challenges and will probably proceed more cautiously, he said.

Newsom was vague about how sports could resume by early June, though he said it would to be done without spectators and with “deep modifications” that would protect players and staff. 

Newsom’s announcement at a Napa restaurant came the same day one of California’s largest tribal casinos reopened to a big crowd in the San Diego area and as the San Francisco Bay Area county that reported the first known U.S. death from coronavirus said it would allow some retail businesses to reopen Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Latest Stories: