California is moving ahead with a further reopening of its economy as the state sees a stabilization in the rate of the virus’ spread.
Governor Gavin Newsom made some of the more dramatic changes to California’s technically ongoing lockdown by lifting the closure of in-store shopping for the broader retail industry, which had been only allowed to offer curbside pickup for the last several weeks. Before being able to operate curbside, nonessential retail businesses had been forced to close for nearly two months.
“You have the option to go into a store now, with modifications,” Newsom said in a daily teleconference.
The modifications include the requirement of facial coverings for shoppers and employees and enforcement of physical distancing, mainly by limiting the number of people allowed in a space at one time, among other efforts.
However, in Los Angeles and Ventura counties over the Memorial Day weekend, it was easy to observe the flouting of such mandates. Most but not all small stores were open in coastal cities from Venice Beach to Santa Barbara, few with any obvious attempts to enforce distancing between people, as groups of beachgoers crowded sidewalks, stores and restaurants after weeks of closures. Mask wearing was also the exception, not the rule, among most people walking in these beach communities. Although employees of stores and restaurants open in any capacity looked to be wearing masks and gloves. In L.A., county officials have mandated that everyone outside wear a mask, but the rule seems to be so far largely ignored by people out in public and the local police.
Newsom also is allowing statewide religious centers to reopen, either at 25 percent capacity or a maximum of 100 people, meaning the state is looking at larger group gatherings for the first time. The governor admitted that larger group gatherings, like those at public events, are likely to be much further off.
“We’re not even out of the first wave of this pandemic,” Newsom said. “People are talking about the second wave and that’s many, many months off. By no stretch of the imagination is this virus behind us.
“We’re making progress and we’re moving forward but we’re going into the unknown, literally and figuratively,” Newsom added.
One thing that is known however is that there will be an increase in cases of the virus, Newsom said, but not one that is “out of our capacity” to handle. Should there be an increase “outside of the spectrum anticipated,” Newsom said, as he has many times, there would likely be a return to stricter mandates.
Nevertheless, California is also set to give guidelines on the restarting of the TV and film industry this week. Rules were actually expected to be handed down tomorrow, but have been delayed to possibly a weekend release as the industry and its unions continue discussions.
But the state is going even further on a county-by-county basis, allowing regions that “self-attest” to meeting criteria like availability of testing, PPE and hospitals, to reopen more fully. As reported last week, hair salons and barbers will be able to reopen with modifications, if in a county that’s approved to do so. So far 47 of California’s 58 counties have attested to be able to reopen more fully.
At the state level, Newsom said last week that hair salons and barbershops would have guidelines “in the next few weeks.”
Nail salons however are so far excluded from this further loosening. Newsom said conversations are “advancing” for the nail and personal-care industry, but formal guidelines for reopening “require more specificity and nuance in order to satisfy health experts, the guidance that’s foundational in our efforts.”
Even without nail salons, Newsom said with the reopening of retail and soon entertainment production marks “meaningful modifications” to most of California’s economy. While some have criticized the reopening as being either too fast or too slow, the state’s economy is in need of revenue.
The shutdown has severely impacted California’s economy, leaving the state with a budget deficit of $54 billion, when in February the state had its biggest surplus ever of $21 billion. Earlier this month, Newsom formally asked the federal government for $1 trillion in aid for his state, as well as for the states of Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Nevada.