Gov. Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom during a press conference on April 14.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference on Monday, May 18, that California will relax guidelines that will likely allow more counties to advance further into Stage 2 of the reopening process.

Stanislaus County officials expect to resubmit their application for a variance.

Gov. Newsom estimated that the new guidelines would allow roughly 53 of the 58 counties to apply to advance further into Stage 2. A total of 24 counties were approved to do so under the previous guidelines.

The announcement came after several counties across the state expressed frustration and resentment with some of the previous requirements that would have barred many counties from expanding the Stage 2 reopening process.

Stanislaus County notably rescinded the local shelter-in-place order and vowed not to use county funds for enforcement of the state order on May 12 in response.

The two requirements under fire have now been altered by the state that should allow for a broader reopening process across California.

Previous guidelines required each county had to have zero deaths over 14 days and no more than one case per 10,000 residents over that period.

The new requirements now require that hospitalization rates don’t increase over 5% over seven days and must now show less than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days.

The state also asks that a county applying for a variance has less than 8 percent positive coronavirus tests.

“Bottom line is people can go at their own pace. We are empowering our local directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions better than any of us,” Gov. Newsom said on Monday.

Gov. Newsom went on to say that a fluid situation such as this pandemic can change how the state’s outlook will be as it develops.

“This is a dynamic period that we are in. It’s an interim period, not an ideological one, meaning that we are not locked in to presuppose anything. We are open to argument. We are interested in evidence and we are engaged in two-way conversations all up and down the state. I know this has been frustrating for many people. They want to see us move more quickly. Others are very concerned that in some respects, they feel we are moving a little too quickly.”

The governor also addressed the future of moving into Stage 3 of the reopening process by deferring more to local public health officials that the possibility of being granted a county variance to enter into Stage 3 of the reopening process could be a possibility in the weeks to come.

“Now we are broadening the pace from which people can enter into Phase 2 and begin the process to make subsequent decisions and move more broadly into other sectors of our society,” Gov. Newsom said. He stated that more information on how that will play out will come out in the coming days.

Gov. Newsom also stated California is working with faith leaders across the state to establish guidelines on when faith communities can congregate again. Large gatherings are still prohibited. He noted that congregation possibilities are still a few weeks away.

Should the state see a spike in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 following the rollout of a broader reopening, then the possibility of reinstituting restrictions could take place according to Gov. Newsom. Part of the reopening requirements is that each county proves they are ready to handle any surge that may, or may not, occur down the road as a result of loosening up restrictions.

“The only thing that will set us back is to move too quickly, no longer practice social distancing that got us so far together,” Gov. Newsom said. “There will be no greater mistake than any of us dream of regretting if we move too quickly, and there is a setback that sets back not only our local community but more broadly the entire state of California.”

PI reporter

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