Newsom: Counties must be off watch list for 2 weeks before opening more sectors

By Victoria Colliver 08/24/2020 05:42 PM EDT

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that counties must be off California’s Covid-19 watch list for two weeks before they can reopen any new business sectors — offering the first glimpse into guidelines he plans to release later this week.

“There has to be a 14-day period between the application, implementation of, not only schools, but reopening any sector of the economy,” Newsom said during a press briefing Monday. Prior to making that announcement, the 14-day requirement had applied only to schools.

The context: Newsom indicated last week that he would release updated rules this week for reopening certain sectors of the economy — details that can’t come soon enough for many business and county leaders frustrated by the lack of information about their path forward.

Key to the reopening is the state’s watch list, which has shrunk from 42 counties last week to 35 on Monday. Counties that have failed to meet any of six different metrics — such as disease rate, hospital and testing capacities — for three consecutive days have had to close certain sectors and can find themselves back on the list if they exceed the thresholds again.

Orange County on Sunday became the latest to get off the watch list, and Newsom announced Monday that Calaveras, Napa, Mono and Sierra counties are also off the list. San Diego County was removed last week.

That means the state’s second and third most populous counties have now escaped the state’s monitoring list, and both are more politically conservative than many other heavily populated counties in California. Their officials have been pushing Newsom to allow more businesses to open as soon as possible.

Other counties, including San Francisco, could get off the list this week.

What this means: The news gives counties greater time certainty for when they may be able to reopen some sectors. Still, it’s unclear what the new guidance will look like. After California saw a massive surge this summer following its first broad-based reopening, it is likely Newsom’s next reopening phase will be more narrowly tailored with stricter guidelines.

Newsom on Monday said personal care services like hair and nail salons, which were forced to close indoor operations last month after reopening in June, are part of the guidelines the state will be putting out this week.

What’s next: Newsom said “more progress will be made in the next couple of days” before releasing the new rules. He would not say what day that would be.

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