Calif. Governor Says State Will Begin Easing Coronavirus Closures

May 5, 2020
Originally published on May 5, 2020 7:16 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

You know, so much of our experience in the coronavirus epidemic is based right now on where we live. If you are still living under stay-at-home orders, it might be hard to believe that more than half of U.S. states are now partially reopened, and by the end of the week, the country's most populous state is going to join them. Here in California, the governor announced yesterday that some businesses in the state will be able to reopen as early as this Friday. And NPR's Nathan Rott has been following this. Hi, Nate.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: Let's just remind everyone what it means to partially reopen.

ROTT: So a partial reopening could mean a lot of different things depending on where you are. You know, the federal government put out its guidelines for what reopening should look like, but those guidelines were really, really broad, and they're basically letting states fill in the details. And then you have counties - like in Washington state and Texas, even here in California - who are either paving their own path forward or questioning the state's authority to tell them what to do. So you've got this piecemeal approach with some places being really aggressive in reopening and others being a bit more timid.

GREENE: So let's use California as an example. What is the situation here right now?

ROTT: From what we heard yesterday from Governor Gavin Newsom, it's going to be a pretty measured reopening in these early stages. Retail businesses - like clothing, sporting goods stores, bookshops, florists - those are going to be able to reopen under certain conditions. So it's really like more of a dipping of the toes in the reopening water than a full-body dive. But remember - California was also the first state to issue a statewide stay-at-home order more than six weeks ago. So this - you know, it is a big deal.

GREENE: Yeah. I mean, the governor here has been one of the earliest and more restrictive in the entire country. Now he's, you know, easing things. Could it have been in response to some of these really angry protests we saw here?

ROTT: You know, according to the governor, no. Here he is announcing the rollback of restrictions yesterday.

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GAVIN NEWSOM: This is a very positive sign, and it's happened only for one reason - the data says it can happen.

ROTT: So what he's saying is the curve has been flattened here in California. State officials showed graphs yesterday illustrating as much, which, you know, is not to say that we are out of the woods. There are still thousands of new cases in California every day, dozens more deaths. But we're not seeing that rapid increase in spread that we saw earlier. So they're going to loosen things up and reserve the right to clamp down again if needed.

GREENE: And, Nate, what about those counties here in California we heard about that were going their own way and just defying Newsom and opening stuff on their own?

ROTT: So yeah, there are three fairly rural counties in Northern California that don't have many coronavirus cases. I think, you know, one of the counties hasn't had any recorded coronavirus cases. So local officials there made their own guidelines which are way less restrictive than the state's. So, you know, for example, dine-in eating at restaurants - that will not be allowed statewide anytime soon. But in Yuba City, which is one - in one of those counties, I talked to a restaurant owner who said she had a socially distanced line outside the door. Here's Kristel Martin with the city's downtown business association.

KRISTEL MARTIN: We're not trying to go against anything. We just want to get back to the new norm - bring our economy back and get people back to working again.

ROTT: Now, it's unclear if the state is going to fight them on this. So far, it hasn't. Newsom did say they're going to allow different counties and areas to move at different speeds, as long as they have the ability to test, trace, prevent another outbreak. But he also says a full reopening, that will not happen until we have a vaccine or a better way to treat this virus, and that is still a very long ways off.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Nathan Rott talking to us about the situation here in California. Nate, thanks.

ROTT: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.