Newsom: Schools may reopen as soon as July

Coronavirus
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that the state is “weeks, not months” from making “meaningful changes” to the state’s physical distancing guidelines, and shared some of the first things residents should expect to see reopen.

The governor did not announce any immediate, major changes to the state’s stay-at-home order, but he did share further details about plans for doing so in the near-future.

Newsom said the state is starting to envision a way to catch up on learning time lost when school campuses closed for in-person instruction last month. One option — which he clarified was only being considered, not finalized — was an earlier school year that would start in the late summer (July or August) rather than in fall.

“Our kids have lost a lot to this disruption,” the governor said. “If we can maybe start up the school year a little earlier, that could help (close) that gap a little bit.”

Dr. Sonia Angell, the state health officer, shared the order that California residents should expect to see the state follow as it gradually reopens parts of daily life. This will be broken into four stages:

Stage 1: Safety and Preparedeness
Angell said this is the current state of affairs in California: making essential workplaces as safe as possible, stockpiling the state’s medical resources and staying home.

Stage 2: Lower-risk Workplaces
Officials say the next stage will see the gradual opening of non-essential businesses where social distancing measures are possible to put in place. This could include retail businesses that set up curbside pickup for customers, in addition to manufacturing and office jobs where floor plans can be rearranged.

Stage 2 would also include the start of education activities, again, with a heavy emphasis on changing layouts to allow more distancing. Childcare facilities with modifications could also be opened during this stage.

Stage 3: Higher-Risk Workplaces
Next, the state will reopen “higher-risk” businesses and gathering places. This will include businesses such as nail salons and barber shops that require close physical contact. It will also apply to places of worship and other gathering places where people sit closer together.

Stage 4: Ending the Stay-at-Home Order
When state health experts are satisfied with California’s progress toward “herd immunity” and a vaccine, any remaining restrictions on how people move around in the state will be lifted. Large-scale events such as concerts and sporting events will be possible.

Newsom repeatedly discusses the importance of making decisions “guided by science, not politics,” when facing pressure to provide a firm deadline or hasten the pace at which the state reopens. “There’s no date. If there’s a date, then we’re denying the facts on the ground,” Newsom said last week. “We need to be adaptive.”

On Tuesday, he again declined to provide a specific date for the beginning of Stage 2, though he said the state is close.

The governor has emphasized that lifting restrictions will not work like a “light switch” but instead like a “dimmer,” with measures being lifted and potentially put back in place depending on how public health data reacts.

Officials say six key factors will determine when and how the state gradually lifts social distancing restrictions, including making sure it can adequately:

  1. Monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating and treating people who are positive or exposed
  2. Prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe virus symptoms
  3. Handle surges in hospitals and public health systems
  4. Develop new therapeutic treatments
  5. Introduce new ways to allow for greater social distancing in businesses, schools and child care facilities
  6. Determine if and when to reintroduce certain measures

Newsom has entered a pact with the other West Coast states to coordinate their re-entry plans.

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