By Adrienne Diaz and Apsara Senaratne
In late April, Governor Gavin Newsom and state leaders unveiled a four-stage plan to begin reopening the state of California. The state will enter Stage 2 on Friday May 8. Guidelines for entering Stage 2 allow book, clothing, music and sporting goods stores, florists, and the like to reopen with restrictions this Friday, according Governor Newsom’s statement.
These stores will be open for curbside pickup only, however, and manufacturers can resume operations as long they adhere to strict social distancing measures. Restaurants, bars, and large establishments such as shopping malls and offices will remain closed.
In his daily briefings broadcasted across several news channels, Governor Newsom has been consistently informing California residents of developments in reopening and continuing to encourage residents to stay home, warning that the virus is not under control and that reopening does not mean that we are safe.
“It’s a new normal with adaptations and modifications, until we get to immunity and a vaccine,” Newsom said in his statement.
These changes are not guaranteed for all counties, however. Some California districts, including six Bay Area counties, have implemented stricter policies which dictate reopening to begin no earlier than May 31, according to ABC News. Governor Newsom has affirmed that local officials may maintain stricter restrictions if they feel their counties are not prepared for reopening.
Though nothing is absolute, the state’s plan predicts that schools could begin to reopen with distancing and sanitation measures by July or August, and that stay-at-home orders could be eased within the next month. However, Governor Newsom’s projections for the future have drawn the ire of some organizations which criticize such a reopening timeline as unrealistic.
As of May 5, the California Department of Public Health has reported 58,815 total cases of COVID-19 in California, with thousands hospitalized and in ICU, and 2,412 fatalities. Although physical distancing and the use of masks has been strongly encouraged and enforced in California for over a month, it was only a week ago that residents flocked to recently opened Orange and Ventura County beaches, placing themselves at risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus.
According to San Francisco Magazine, a few counties, including Yuba and Sutter, have already begun the process of reopening contact-heavy nonessential businesses like restaurants, gyms, salons, and bars, which are listed under Stage 3 of the California plan. Though Governor Newsom has encouraged these counties to “do the right thing” and maintain stay-at-home orders lest a “second wave” of the virus hit California and prolong the state shutdown, he has ultimately been unable to ensure the cooperation of local governments.
“They’re making a big mistake. They’re putting their public at risk. They’re putting our progress at risk,” Governor Newsom said at a coronavirus press briefing.
It is not just Governor Newsom and officials who are concerned with counties lifting these guidelines so soon, however. Many Californians agree with this as well.
“With lifted restrictions, people are going to perceive the situation as getting better, and will further take advantage by continuing to socialize in person and in larger groups. I’m just worried about how the selfishness and ignorance of those disobeying scientific recommendations may extend quarantine and accelerate the spread of the virus,” senior Hannah Chubin said.
Governor Newsom’s early declaration of stay-at-home orders has allowed California to more efficiently stabilize the rate at which COVID-19 cases arise as well as control the number of coronavirus-related deaths, according to the State Reopening Roadmap Report card. In other words, California has been able to “flatten the curve,” a phrase often mentioned in coronavirus briefings.
However, some California residents feel restricted and have become anxious as stay-at-home orders are prolonged, threatening job security and family income.
“I think the shutdown is a bit excessive. Opening the economy while still practicing social distancing and proper sanitary habits will save more lives,” senior Tony Alcala said.
This may not be possible, however. Although mass-reopening businesses may appear to benefit the state economy in the short term, there is still a possibility that such an action could increase cases of coronavirus.
“I am happy that more people will get their jobs back, and the economy will start recovering. However, I do not think society is ready for lifted restrictions,” Chubin said.
Governor Newsom and the state’s health experts urge Californians to remain vigilant in their efforts to ensure that California can avoid a “second wave” of the virus through maintaining social distancing guidelines and continuing to stress hand washing protocols.