Newsom: Certain retail sectors can open at the end of the week

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that the state would be allowing certain "low-risk" retail sectors to reopen as soon as the end of the week as long as they meet a set of strict rules.

The state will be providing new guidelines on Thursday to allow for certain retail sectors to reopen as early as Friday.

Stores selling clothing, books, toys and sporting goods were some of the businesses Newsom said could possibly reopen within days. With Mother's Day on Sunday, Newsom said he'd also like to see florists back in business. 

The retail stores will only be allowed to offer curbside pickup for the time being. 

“As early as the end of this week you will have the capacity as a begin to reopen for pickup," he said. "We are entering the next phase this week. This is a very positive sign," he said. "The data says it can happen." 

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Manufacturing operations that produce the merchandise sold in these types of retail would also be allowed to resume activity, as long as workers have protective gear and maintain safe distances from other employees. 

Newsom also discussed allowing restaurants and hospitality industries to reopen in a "thoughtful and judicious" manner. He did not provide an exact time frame on that but said that would come closer to the end of what he described as Phase 2. Originally, these industries were mentioned as being able to reopen earlier. 

None of these modifications immediately apply to the Bay Area. 

If counties, such as the Bay Area, want to be more strict and not allow retail to re-open, then Newsom said he respected that and noted that some counties have fewer deaths than others and might feel more comfortable in reopening. Bay Area health officers have not yet indicated if and when they would follow Newsom's lead. 

Thirty people had died in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, Newsom noted, pointing out that while any death is sobering, this number is less than the peak of 115 a week ago.

More than 2,200 people have died in California from coronavirus, and Newsom's strict stay-at-home rules have been credited for the relatively low death toll. New York City, for example, has seen more than 18,000 people die since the beginning of March. 

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Newsom said a key consideration for entering Phase 2 is the ability for health authorities to test and conduct contact tracing of infections, as he also announced a partnership of "disease detectives" with UCSF and UCLA to train more contract tracers in a virtual academy.

When the restrictions for the state relax on Friday, offices will still not be allowed to open and neither will shopping malls. 

On social media, many applauded his efforts.

"I'm good with curbside pickup and home shipping," wrote Tommieko St. Thomas. "Gotta play it safe."

Amada Smulevitz wrote: "Sensible reopening. Thank you governor and staff." 

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Others were not that pleased.

"Lunacy," wrote Kevin Tinto on Facebook, saying he's been shopping at hardware stores with no problems and didn't know why other non-essential stores also had to be penalized. "What a knucklehead. Political grandstanding, with zero impact on safety."

Some regions can move further into Phase 2 with plans that need to be "locally certified" if they have the adequate capacity for testing, tracing, physical distancing, sanitation, and protecting the most vulnerable residents, Newsom said.

Local health officials and county supervisors will need to certify that capacity to make that shift. That includes restaurants and hospitality opening with modifications.

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Newsom said he hopes Californians are pleased with this relaxation but acknowledged the many protests and lawsuits building against him, adding that he knows this retail reopening decision won't be enough for everyone. 

Even before his announcement, businesses in Yuba and Sutter counties followed last week’s lead of rural Modoc County threw open their doors, albeit with protections and distancing. 

He said he recognizes their frustrations but that he hopes these counties recognize the consequences of their decision. 

"Let's not forget the virulence of this disease," he said. 

But Newsom said he cannot safely reopen the state in its entirety.

He said he feels that any death or sickness is ultimately his responsibility.

"That's on me," he said."