California Retools Reopening Framework After Summer Virus Surge

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced new guidance for reopening the world’s fifth-largest economy, creating a statewide tier system rather than a county-by-county structure that has led to disparate approaches in restarting businesses.

The new framework creates four different categories as opposed to 58 separate metrics for each county to measure progress in the fight against the coronavirus. It also allows some sectors to be partially open as opposed to strictly being open or closed. Focus will shift from a broad set of metrics to just two -- case rates per 100,000 residents and test positivity rates -- to determine how a county is faring.

“We believe this is much more simple, much more transparent,” Newsom said at a press briefing Friday.

California was forced to roll back many of its reopenings this summer after a surge in Covid-19 cases, which was partly blamed on varied guidelines for counties that led some areas to quickly loosen rules. Infections have soared from about 110,000 at the end of May to nearly 700,000 as of Friday.

The new reopening system creates four tiers, which are from worst to best: purple, red, orange, and yellow. Purple tier counties, for example, can only have outdoor dining for restaurants while those in the next tier, red, can have restaurants operate with 25% capacity indoors. A county remains in each tier for at least 21 days before moving up if the two key metrics improve.

Newsom said 38 counties are in the tightest purple tier -- areas that comprise about 87% of the population. Nine counties are red, eight are orange and three are yellow.

The state’s virus trends have showed marked improvement over the past month, with hospitalizations down more than 40% from a July peak. Daily new cases have averaged at 6,270 over the past two weeks, compared with more than 9,000 a month ago.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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