After months spent in various stages of lockdown, California’s economy cracked open a little bit further Friday with the state announcing a series of new checklists for counties hoping to get bars, sit-down restaurants, gyms, hotels, summer camps and bowling alleys up and rolling again as early as next Friday.
The new “Phase 3” guidelines serve as rough how-to guides for areas of the state that are deemed ready to reopen by state health authorities, based on levels of COVID-19 transmission, testing capacity and other metrics.
Though the new “guidances” recommend that counties open “no sooner” than June 12, Sonia Angell, Director of the California Department of Public Health, stressed that it is still up to local health authorities to decide if next week is still too soon.
“Guidance doesn’t mean ‘go,’” Angell said in a press release. “Your local health officer will make the final decision about which sectors will open, guided by data specific to your community.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide shelter-in-place order on March 19. As impatience has grown in some quarters over time, his administration has relented to political pressure from rural counties with low-transmission rates to allow for regional “variances” — allowing different counties to move forward at their own pace.
In the Bay Area, where county officials have maintained stricter shelter-in-place orders than much of the rest of the state, health officials in San Francisco and Alameda counties also issued relaxed guidances, allowing for small social gatherings as long as social distancing precautions are taken.
Outside the Bay Area, your local gym may be reopening soon.
According to the CalMatters hospitalization tracker, there are over 3,100 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the state. That number has held fairly steady since mid-May. Despite that holding pattern, the governor struck a confident note during a press conference Friday, noting that many counties are now much better prepared to deal with a possible resurgence of the virus than they were at the beginning of the outbreak. Tests and protective equipment has been acquired. Social distancing guidelines have been put in place. Contact tracing teams have been mobilized.
“We have over the course of the last 100 days been preparing our efforts here in the state of California for an anticipated increase in cases as we begin to reopen our economy,” he said. “Our capacity has never been greater.”
Here are some of the highlights of what you can expect from Phase 3 — as soon as your county allows it.
- Teachers and counselors should use face masks or, if necessary for “phonological instruction,” transparent face shields.
- At camp, counselors should make group handwashing into a daily routine (the guidance did not specify what kinds of songs children should sing while doing this, but count on it). Teachers should do the same in classrooms.
- The use of jungle gyms and shared balls and toys should be limited.
- Classroom windows should be left open when possible.
- Both schools and camps should try to stagger pick up and drop off times to avoid crowding.
- So much for waste reduction: expect more disposable paper menus, single-use salt and pepper packets and disposable seat covers.
- Say goodbye to buffets and self-service soda machines.
- Restaurants are encouraged to adopt new reservations systems and to allow customers to order their food beforehand to minimize the amount of time they spend inside the restaurant.
- Tables should be spaced 6 feet apart and, if possible, separated by partitions with one-way walkways between them.
- Video game arcades, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses and batting cages can open.
- Amusement parks can open — but only if they have stand-alone entertainment centers. Sorry, no rides.
- Keep your skates in the closet: Ice rinks, laser tag arenas and other event spaces “where a central part of the activity is circulating in shared space” are still a no-go.
- “Close ball pits, foam pits, indoor playgrounds, climbing structures, enclosed bounce houses.”
- Expect hand sanitizer and wipes at exercise machines, in locker rooms, and at exits and entrances.
- “Shaking hands, bumping fists or elbows” are to be discouraged.
- Just like the grocery store, gyms and fitness centers are being encouraged to have special hours for “high risk individuals.”
- Fire pits, amphitheaters, basketball courts and other areas that encourage group gatherings should be closed.
- Camp site general stores should consider letting campers buy firewood remotely in advance.
- “Clean and sanitize arrows before and after use at archery ranges.”
In all cases, establishments are told to have disinfectant and staff training plans and to be prepared to equip their employees with protective equipment and regularly screen them for fever and other symptoms. Read all the state’s guidance documents here.
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