LOS ANGELES — California will enter the next phase of reopening its economy, but instead of hard dictates by the state, decisions will be left up to individual counties, Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday.
Phase 3 of reopening will allow hair salons, restaurants, and barbershops to reopen in 47 of the state’s 58 counties, Newsom said.
“We put out the how; counties decide when,” Newsom said during his press conference.
State health officials have provided guidance for reopening different sectors of the economy, but it will be up to each county health director to rely on their data on infections, deaths, testing capabilities, containment and tracing and other critical components for slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“The state puts out the guidelines by sector on how to safely reopen but it’s the counties working with their health director that could determine the pace of when,” Newsom said. “The state is not dictating, not mandating those dates. It puts out the sectorial guidance and allows for a deliberate process to be put in place.”
Instead of a statewide rollout of the next phase, California will see a patchwork of timelines for different counties and Newsom said that was important because one size does not fit all when it comes to how each part of the state has suffered under the novel coronavirus.
“Whatever our ideals are as a state and nation, those ideals will be manifest at the local level,” Newsom said. “We can set the tone, we can set the tenor, but at the end of the day the actualization of those ideals must be made manifest at the local level.”
But there continue to be disparities among who is tested and which communities are seeing the most deaths.
Latinos account of 55% of positive cases but make up 39% of the state’s population, while black residents only account for 6% of the state population but make up 5.3% of all infections and 10% of all deaths.
California has tested 1.8 million people, with 4.1% positive average over the last 14 days. The daily volume of testing has increased from 2,000 tests per day to over 50,000 tests. The state saw a 2% increase in infections and 2% increase in deaths on Friday, with a total of 4,068 dead and 103,886 infected according to latest health data.
When asked by a reporter why the state would allow Los Angeles County to reopen, even though it has been referred to as a hotspot for infections and deaths by federal health officials, Newsom reiterated the state’s position.
“The local health director made the decision today in L.A.,” Newsom said.
LA County officials said Friday their application for a variance was approved by the state, clearing the way for barbershops and hair salons to resume operations and restaurants to offer restricted in-person dining.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the move will alleviate businesses that have been struggling during the pandemic-fueled economic downturn.
“This further brings our community together and resumes a sense of normalcy,” said Barger, adding that officials will announce relaxed regulations for sports venues and theme parks on June 2.
Under the variance, restaurants in the county can open as early as Friday evening without prior inspection from county officials, but only if they can adhere to public health guidelines, said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
“Reopening as safely as possible will require a lot of effort and we do appreciate everyone doing this right,” Ferrer told reporters. “As we enter the weekend and revisit reopened establishments, I want to note the new normal reflects the fact that Covid-19 is still very active in our communities and there’s a lot at stake.”
Ferrer reported 50 additional COVID-19-related deaths in the county, raising the region’s tally to 2,290, which represents more than half of California’s 4,000 deaths from the virus.
The county’s total confirmed cases of Covid-19 stands at 51,562 after Ferrer reported an additional 1,824 cases Friday.
Christina Ghaly, L.A. County Health Services director, told reporters more county residents are returning to hospitals for non-COVID-19 medical reasons as the region advances its phased reopening.
Newsom opened his COVID-19 press briefing Friday with a doleful message about the death of George Floyd. Newsom offered a story about his daughter showing him a TikTok video of Floyd’s death while he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired by the police department and charged with Floyd’s murder on Friday.
Newsom noted he doesn’t need to have the same difficult conversation black parents have with their children about being pulled over by the police or wearing a hoodie in public.
“It’s a conversation people have been having across the country for decades, decades, decades. When will it end?” said Newsom during his emotional comment. “Here we are faced with that question again. With deep and profound emotional ways.”
Floyd’s death has spawned protests in Minneapolis that have also spread to cities across the United States.
— By Nathan Solis and Martin Macias Jr., CNS