North Bay neighbors gather for ‘trash talk’, ponder their futures in the new normal

Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday provided a roadmap to re-opening the state but warns it will be a changed California. 

"We talk about what the new normal will look like, as I've said, normal... it will not be," he said. 

For now, he's asking everyone to stay the course.    

"There's no light switch here, I would argue it's more like a dimmer," he said, describing the gradual transition out of Covid-19 restrictions. 

Newsom laid out six goals that must be met, including improved testing and tracking, expansion of hospital capacity and readiness, and the protection of high-risk residents such as seniors, the homeless, and incarcerated. 

He also wants to see the development of therapeutic treatments and what he called "changing the floor plan," guidelines to ensure physical distance at businesses, schools and daycare facilities. 

Finally, Newsom wants indicators for when Californians should be ordered home again, if the virus surges. 

"If we indeed lean in but then have to lean back out, as we toggle between stricter to looser interventions, and back and forth," said Newsom. 

The governor says much will depend on the rate of hospitalizations and ICU cases during the next two weeks. 

"We all hope that by the end of this month we will be able to conduct tens of thousands of tests a day, and not just for the sickest," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Director of Health and Human Services. "Once we hit that level, and we know individuals can be tested and results rapidly available, we'll be able to think about modifying these orders." 

The timetable, however vague, came as welcome news in a Santa Rosa neighborhood.

"It gives people hope, it gives them a little thread to hang onto," said Betty Castino, socializing with her cul-de-sac neighbors.  

Their Tuesday evening gatherings are a reflection of the times. 

Residents of Meridian Circle visit with each other each week as they retrieve their garbage cans from the street.

The cans help them remember to maintain social distance. 

They call it their "trash talk" - a few moments of friendship and support - six feet apart.  

"It's been challenging to all of a sudden not have a job, it's California and my husband and I need both our incomes," said resident Nancy Korbet, who has been furloughed.  

Hearing about Newsom's plans, the neighbors are well aware life will not be reverting back when constraints lift. 

"The new normal is going to be different from the old normal," said resident Richard Allum, "and we're all going to have to make some adaptations and continue to adapt."

Newsom says face coverings will remain common in public.

He describes mass public gatherings such as sports, festivals and fairs, "negligible at best." 

Schools - once re-opened- will probably lack assemblies, recess, or cafeteria-style eating.

Students could be separated into shifts.   

"We could conceivably stagger the students to come in, some in the morning, some in the afternoon," said Newsom. 

Restaurants face some of the biggest potential changes: fewer tables, disposable menus, masks and gloves among staff, and customers' temperatures taken on entry. 

All of this, Newsom says, until there is widespread immunity and a vaccine, hopefully within a year. 

"I just think it's important for folks to know that we're not in a permanent state," concluded Newsom, promising more details at month's end. 

"Let's not make the mistake of pulling the plug too early as much as we all want to. I don't want to make a political decision that puts people's lives at risk."   

Residents of Meridian Circle agree on the merits of proceeding cautiously.  

"We don't know what normal is going to be, but I think it's important for people to have hope, in order to keep following these strict rules," said Castino, wheeling her garbage can in with the rest of her neighbors.    

Debora Villalon is a reporter forKTVU.  Email Debora at and follow her on Twitter@DeboraKTVU