Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled on Friday, Aug. 28, a new Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a statewide, stringent and slow plan for living with COVID-19 for the long haul. The plan imposes risk-based criteria on tightening and loosening COVID-19 allowable activities and expands the length of time between changes to assess how any movement affects the trajectory of the disease.
While California’s new guidelines for counties to reopen specific business sectors offer a simpler, more limited set of metrics, the immediate impact on San Bernardino County residents and businesses is fairly limited, with most of the previous restrictions still in place.
One exception: barbershops and hair salons, which previously could only offer services outside, may now serve patrons indoors (subject to specific modifications). Also, indoor shopping malls can open again with limited capacity.
The new system replaces the state’s “Monitoring List” with a four-tiered, color category system. A county’s reopening guidelines are based on whether a county is ranked as purple (widespread risk), red (substantial), orange (moderate) or yellow (minimal).
“COVID-19 will be with us for a long time and we need to adapt,” Newsom explained during a press conference on Friday. “This idea that it was going to go away in the summer during the warmer months, that somehow it would disappear … has obviously been substituted by a different reality that we’re not only experiencing here in California but all across the nation.”
Currently 38 counties, representing 87 percent of the state’s population, are in the purple category — and San Bernardino is among them. Purple counties are those reporting more than seven new cases or more per day per 100,000 residents and a testing positivity rate of more than 8 percent. Moving to a lower tier will require meeting that tier’s criteria for two weeks prior to the move, with a mandatory 21-day wait time between each move.
“We obviously are hoping our county can move into the red category, and that will require making steady progress on our case and positivity rates,” said Corwin Porter, the county’s director of public health. “Over the past 7 days, we have averaged 11.7 new cases per 100,000 residents, and to move to the red tier, we need to be at 7 cases per 100,000 residents. In addition, our positivity rate is still in the 10 percent range, and we need to be at a steady 8 percent or lower, so we clearly still have more work to do.”
The tier system will not include thresholds for hospitalizations and ICU bed availability, as these are criteria the counties up and down the state are meeting. A spike in a county’s hospitalization, however, could be used as an “emergency brake” for a county tier determination, according to the governor.
Porter emphasized the need for more testing countywide and to pursue the same safety guidelines the county has been promoting the past several months, but with particular vigilance on avoiding social gathering.
“We see that the majority of cases are coming from social gatherings where families and friends – even in a small group – are not following the same protocol as when they are shopping or going about their regular routine,” said Porter. “You might be with extended family or close friends, but until we have a vaccine, wear a mask and keep your distance between each other.”
Following are rules for counties in the purple category:
• Hair salons: open indoors with modifications
• Retail: open indoors at 25 percent capacity
• Malls: open indoors at 25 percent capacity and food courts closed
• Personal care services (nail salons, body waxing, etc.): outdoor only
• Museums, zoos and aquariums: outdoor only
• Places of worship: outdoor only
• Movie theaters: outdoor only
• Hotels: open with modifications
• Gyms: outdoor only
• Restaurants: outdoor only
• Wineries: outdoor only
• Bars and breweries: closed
• Family entertainment centers: outdoor only, like mini golf, batting cages and go-kart racing
• Cardrooms: outdoor only
• Non-essential offices: remote work only
• Professional sports: no live audiences
• Schools: must stay closed