Escalating Outbreak Raises Concerns as State Continues to Pursue Reopening Plan
By Katie Burke CoStar News
June 22, 2020
California's gradual reopening could be short-lived if the state decides to revert to stricter stay-home orders that cut sales at retail properties amid a resurgence of coronavirus hospitalizations.
A record number of Californians tested positive for the virus in recent days, about a month into the state's phased reopening process. Gov. Gavin Newsom said parts of the economy could be forced to close back down if the state's case count grows beyond its hospital capacity.
Without including specifics or metrics that would dictate a second lockdown, the governor said officials are prepared if measures such as social-distancing guidelines or California's recent mask-wearing mandate aren't enough to curb the virus' spread.
California, with one of the half dozen biggest economies in the world, has higher economic stakes than most of the country in achieving a successful trade-off between public health and providing incomes for its populace, which is the largest in the United States. As a result, it stands out as states across the country battle a continued spike in cases and officials attempt to balance health concerns with increasing economic and political pressures. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the United States reported more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday and Saturday, the highest daily totals since May 1.
Retailers from restaurants to clothing stores in particular are trying to generate the revenue needed to cover the costs from their properties. Commercial landlords are watching trends to determine whether to switch to different types of uses for their properties, decisions that are based in part on the projected length of the pandemic.
“It’s your individual decision that will determine our fate and future as we navigate the pandemic in an effort to mitigate the likelihood and need that we ever have to toggle back on these stay-at-home orders,” Newsom said at a press conference. “We don’t intend to do that. We don’t want to do that. But I want to make this clear: We are prepared to do that, if we must.”
Newsom said more than 46,735 Californians have tested positive for the virus over the past two weeks, representing about 36% of all known cases in the state since the outbreak began in March. He said the state's reopening plan would proceed based on preparations it made at the beginning of the lockdown to ensure hospital capacity could accommodate an anticipated spike in cases. The state expected an increase in the number of confirmed cases as it beefed up testing, but officials are now watching the increase closely for signs it's growing beyond its control.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday it would also consider walking back the state's aggressive reopening efforts, and that “additional measures are going to be necessary” given a continued spike in the state's hospitalization count. As of Sunday, Texas reported more than 2,900 hospitalizations, a 37% increase compared to the previous week.
After maintaining one of the strictest shelter-in-place orders in the country, California will continue to ease some of its restrictions — for the time begin, at least.
The state began part three of its four-part reopening plan June 12, which allowed higher-risk businesses and venues such as movie theaters and gyms to reopen as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Nonessential retail, restaurants, bars, houses of worship and recreational activities at parks and beaches have been allowed to resume in most of the state.
State officials have also continued to approve individual counties' request to speed up their own reopening timelines.
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