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California Sets Slower, Stricter Pandemic Reopening Guidelines for Businesses

New Process Requires Most Nonessential Businesses to Stay Closed, But Hair Salons May Reopen Monday


By Randyl Drummer CoStar News

August 28, 2020 | 3:51 P.M.


California Gov. Gavin Newsom is unveiling a color-coded process for reopening businesses in the nation's most populous state that's more cautious and gradual than current guidelines aimed at stemming the transmission of the coronavirus.


Under the new four-tier system, 87% of California’s 40 million residents are in the purple category with the highest coronavirus risk and the most severe business restrictions, previously called the state's coronavirus "watchlist."


The purple tier includes all urban Southern California counties except for San Diego and all San Francisco Bay Area counties except for San Francisco and Napa. Those three counties are on the second-highest red tier, denoting “substantial” transmission risk.

The new guidelines governing the world's fifth-largest economy allow hair salons and barbershops to resume indoor operations beginning Monday even in counties in the purple tier, according to the state’s website. Shuttered retail and shopping centers in the purple tier can open with maximum capacity at 25%.


The new guidelines represent what the governor called a “stringent and steady” approach that effectively walks back his first reopening plan announced in late April, which relied on counties to attest to their own readiness to reopen their economy. The virus surged as countries rapidly eased local restrictions heading into summer,

overwhelming the ability of local officials and healthcare providers to process test results and do contact tracing, and forcing a second statewide shutdown of many businesses.


Counties must show consistent success in reducing daily new cases and positive tests for COVID-19 before allowing businesses to reopen and group activities to resume. Under the guidelines, counties can only move one tier at a time and will have a 21-day mandatory wait time between moves, Newsom said during a news briefing.

(California Governor's Office)


"We’re going to be more stubborn this time and have a mandatory wait time between moves,” Newsom said. “We didn’t do that last time and that is a significant distinction between what we learned from the past and what we now are advancing in risk."

The state's positive test rate is now at an "encouraging" seven-day average of 5.7%, Newsom said Friday.


Under the purple Tier 1 “widespread transmission” guidelines, most nonessential businesses must be closed, including indoor dining at restaurants. This tier includes counties that have more than seven new COVID cases per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positive test rate of 8% and above.


Tier 2 counties coded as red have “substantial transmission” of four to seven daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a coronavirus postive test rate of between 5% to 8%. The tier requires some nonessential indoor businesses to remain closed.


Under orange-coded Tier 3, some businesses can open with modifications to protect workers and employees. To qualify, counties must have one to 3.9 new cases per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positive test rate of 2% to 4.9%.


Tier 4, or yellow conditions defined as minimal transmission allow most business to reopen, with modifications. To qualify, counties have less than one new case per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positive test rate of less than 2%.


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