May 18 (UPI) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced an easing of rules that will allow the majority of counties to advance toward reopening after the state’s stay-at-home order.
During a speech at a Napa restaurant, Newsom said some counties may be able to move to the second stage in the path to re-open. He announced lower benchmark numbers of active coronavirus infection cases and death rates for at least 53 of California’s 58 counties to move ahead, if they chose to.
Statewide, hospitalizations have declined by 8 percent and tens of millions of masks have been distributed statewide, Newsom said.
“We recognize the conditions across the state are unique and distinctive depending where you are,” Newsom said.
Previous rules said counties that wanted to reopen must show no deaths from COVID-19 in the previous 14 days.
Now, counties that want to advance toward reopening must remain below 5 percent in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the last week on average, the governor said.
Counties would also need to show that they had a positive test rate of no more than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the previous 14 days, or less than 8 percent of positive tests.
Twenty-four, mostly smaller counties, have met the rules to start reopening, Newsom said Monday.
The next step statewide is for in-store retail shopping, opening of hair salons and barber shops and the reopening of professional sporting events without spectators, the governor said.
Demonstrators in early May protested Newsom’s stay-at-home orders at the capitol in Sacramento. On May 8, retail stores in some California counties were allowed to open curbside pickup and some restaurants were allowed to begin inside dining.
As of May 16, the California Department of Public Health reported a total of 78,839 positive cases and 3,261 deaths in California.
While counties in northern California saw their infection rates drop, Los Angeles County was still among the top U.S. infection hotspots with more than 450 new daily cases and 18 daily deaths, according to the county health department. Los Angeles county has recorded a total of 38,011 confirmed cases and 1,839 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.