Trying to inject some optimism into California as the state plods through its eighth week under shelter-at-home orders, Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said that for some parts of the state and some types of businesses, "we are weeks, not months away" from being able to open some things back up.
With the caveat that some counties may choose to keep restrictions in place longer — like the six Bay Area counties which announced Monday that stay-at-home orders will go through the month of May — Newsom said in his public address that modifications are coming to the stay-at-home order that will allow some retail, manufacturing, and other businesses to reopen as part of a Phase 2 in this pandemic crisis plan.
The four phases Newsom is referring to are not going to be unique to California, and they are part of a nationwide best practices guide that has been getting hammered out by experts. The video explainer below by mathematician Vi Hart outlines the basic tenets of this "Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience" and its four-phased approach. The conjecture here about job creation is somewhat overly sunny, but as Hart says, "This is a for-real thing that represents a consensus of people with every political belief and expertise, like Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians, economists, and health officials, and ethics and civil liberties folks."
As Newsom said today, "I want to caution everybody, if we pull back too quickly … it could start a second wave that could do even more damage than the first. The virus has not gone away. There’s durability to this virus, and there may be — we’ll see — seasonality."
In addition to allowing some businesses to reopen, Newsom says that "modified" schools and childcare facilities can reopen soon — and he noted that there has been "a learning loss because of this disruption." What a reopening of schools may look like remains to be seen, but Newsom hinted that California kids may not get the usual summer break after this lengthy spring break they've had, despite at-home classes going on. "So we are considering the prospect of an even earlier school year into the fall; as early as late July or early August," Newsom said.
In Phase 2, estimated to start around June, the "roadmap" above talks about a partial reopening of service providers like hair salons, restaurants, and dentists in order to serve essential workers for whom rapid testing is already available. While the general public may still have to do takeout and curbside pickup — and cut their own hair — essential workers could be allowed to dine in restaurants and go to hair salons. And with widespread testing and contact-tracing, those service providers could have some assurance that the population they are serving is being well protected from the virus and well monitored.
Gyms, spas, and other businesses where close contact between people is required might be able to open with modifications in Phase 3, which would likely be later in the summer. And in Phase 4, at which point there are widespread testing and contact-tracing apparatuses in place and new case totals remain low, large gatherings, bars, and entertainment venues could reopen.
Risks will linger in these phases for people who are at high risk for severe cases of COVID-19, and the populace can mitigate these risks by continuing to wear masks, for example. And the possibility of tightening and locking things down later remains if new hot spots and outbreaks emerge — see the story we published yesterday about the 1918 flu pandemic in SF as a cautionary tale.
You can expect to hear more about the details of these next three phases in the coming weeks.