Gov. Newsom ditches watch list for new 4-tier reopening plan

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a new blueprint for reopening California during the coronavirus pandemic that opens the door for counties to lift restrictions on some businesses such as hair salons, retailers, and shopping malls as early as this Monday.

This new four tier system replaces the former county watch list with a new tiered system.

"We're looking at these four tiers, color-coded making it simple purple, red, orange and yellow." said Governor Newsom.

Each of California's 58 counties is put in one of those tiers based on coronavirus data from that county.

In the Bay Area most counties are in the purple tier one category indicating widespread covid risk. Only San Francisco and Napa counties with better numbers are in the red tier two.

The new blueprint for reopening also simplifies the criteria for counties to loosen restrictions by focusing on two metrics, the number of daily cases per 100,000 people, and the percentage of positive 58 coun-19 tests known as the positivity rate.

"It is really tracking some of the key things, which is, what is the prevalence in the community?" said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Director, "The test positivity rate really tells us if we're doing enough testing."

Dr. Farnitano says the state's system adjusts for counties who do a lot of testing.

"We know if you test more, you're going to find more and we want to find more, so counties get credit if they're testing much higher than the average for the state," said Dr. Farnitano.

"The good thing about this new blueprint is it's not just a simple open or closed. It's really a stepwise opening of businesses with a gradual loosening of restrictions on those businesses in response to how the pandemic is affecting that community," said Dr. Farnitano.  

In the Bay Area most counties are in the purple tier one category indicating widespread COVID risk.

Only San Francisco and Napa counties with better numbers are in the red tier two.

The state released a detailed chart showing what is allowed to open under each tier.

Hair salons and barbershops even for the purple tier one will be allowed to have indoor services starting Monday, pending approval by local county health officers.

Contra Costa and San Mateo counties both indicated Friday that they would proceed with allowing hair care services to move indoors with restrictions. Other counties such as San Francisco said they will review the blueprint and announce any changes next week. San Francisco Mayor London Breed explained before the governor's announcement that hair and nail salons as well as gyms would be able to open outdoors.

Shopping malls and retailers also may open doors under tier one with a limit of 25% maximum capacity and closure of common spaces and food courts. Tier two allows occupancy of 50% maximum capacity.

A Sun Valley Mall spokeswoman says the Concord mall is reviewing the order and said the mall likely won't reopen Monday.

"I'd rather they're taking time to do things right rather than rush it and have something happen," said Stephen Guillen, a barber with Empire Barber Shop, which had moved operations to the mall sidewalk outside.
The blueprint allows tier two counties to reopen indoor services for personal care such as nail salons, places of worship, movies and theaters, fitness centers, wineries and bars, and museums and aquariums with limitations on capacity.

In San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences Chief Operating Officer Ike Kwon said the governor's announcement is encouraging news for their furloughed workers.

Our building is ready, we have all the equipment. All we need to do is bring our staff back and retrain them and that's about a 3-week process," said Kwon.

Some are critical of the new blueprint plan, saying the three-week mandatory waiting time to move between tiers is too long.

"We'd like to see restaurant dining rooms reopen as soon as possible," association president Jot Condi said, "Restaurants in every corner of the state are on life support right now. Every day that passes with a dining room closed, a restaurant owner is more likely to shut the doors permanently."
"As every day passes by" said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Canepa, "there's economic peril in my community."

Canepa says with the economic pain being felt by workers in his district, the state should consider lifting restrictions on more businesses, such as allowing restaurants to open for indoor dining.

"I believe that is something that should be strongly considered and added in," said Canepa.

The data will be publicly posted online every Tuesday. The state has created a website where you can type in your county and see the status and guidelines for each type of business.

California has the most confirmed SARS-CoV2 virus cases in the nation, reaching 688,858 in Friday's report and the third-most deaths -- 12,550. Since the governor reinstituted some business closures last month, the average number of daily cases has been falling along with the infection rate and hospitalizations, which peaked at 7,170 on July 21 and since dropped to about 4,300.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana. Associated Press reporters Kathleen Ronayne and Michael R. Blood contributed to the report.