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Governor Reveals Strategy for Phased Reopening of California Economy

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Shopping, Manufacturing and Other 'Lower-Risk' Activities Could Resume First in Coming Weeks

Article By: Randyl Drummer, CoStar News

April 28, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a plan to potentially reopen stores and manufacturing businesses within weeks and return students to school as early as July in the most detailed glimpse yet of how state officials plan to gradually reopen the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Stores and other retail establishments, factories and other “lower-risk workplaces” could reopen in phases in coming weeks if California continues to make progress on testing and contact screening for the coronavirus during the state’s shutdown, Newsom said in a public address Tuesday.

The state’s economic recovery team was expected to meet with “some of the biggest retailers,” including incoming Gap Inc. Chief Executive Sonia Syngal, to work on a plan.

Retail would initially be restricted to curbside pickup at first, according to Sonia Angell, California's state health officer, during a news briefing with the governor. Operations such as clothing, toy and furniture manufacturing and lower-risk office environments where teleworking isn't possible could also be among the first to reopen, Angell said.

Newsom said schools could start their next school year as early as July to make up for a “learning losses” from closures and to allow parents to return to work in California, the most populous state in the country with 40 million people.

“We believe we are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications,” Newsom said, referring to the stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Newsom said the state is framing a reopening of the economy in four phases, starting with planning and reopening low-risk businesses and workplaces in the second phase. The third stage would include reopening of higher-risk activities such as going to a hair or nail salon, gyms, movie theaters and churches, which will be "longer in coming," Angell said.

The second phase could also include a lifeline for the state’s restaurants, with the state allowing the limited reopening of in-room dining, at first for essential workers only, Angell said. The California Restaurant Association has said the state's stay-at-home order has led to mass layoffs, dramatic drops in revenue and temporary closings, with at least one-third of the state's 90,000 restaurants closing permanently.

The governor said any reopening will depend on the ability of state health officials to quickly adjust if COVID-19 cases surge.

The governor's comments reflect a shift toward optimism from just three weeks ago, when state officials expected to need at least 50,000 additional hospital beds for a surge in cases during May. Hospitals have reported having enough beds as the numbers of hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients has remained relatively steady for the past week, Angell said.

California on March 19 was among the first states to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Angell said Tuesday the order had helped slow down the rate of spread of the virus, but state and local officials need to make more progress to meet demand for testing and personal protective equipment.

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