Amid signs of improving COVID-19 conditions in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) lifted statewide stay-at-home orders Monday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said.
The move allows restaurants to open for outdoor dining options and salons to resume indoor appointments. Outdoor church services are also permitted. Reopening options apply to regions including the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California and marks the first reopening opportunity since December.
The state will now revert to a county tier system, which eases lockdowns depending on case rates and gives local officials the option to set their own restrictions, KCRA reports.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement obtained by KCRA. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
Prior to Newsom’s decision, some California restaurateurs criticized the measures and took legal action against the dining restrictions. In August 2020, the advocacy organization California Restaurant Association (CFA) released a grim statistic: 30 percent of California restaurants will permanently shut their doors.
The CFA largely blames Newsom’s lack of aid for the economic crunch.
“Restaurants cannot sustain themselves or their employees when they operate with strict capacity limits, which means the state should long ago have crafted a comprehensive aid package to help these small businesses hibernate,” CFA CEO Jot Condie said. “This is what we had repeatedly urged the Newsom administration to do – make state help available to restaurants so that, once the pandemic is behind us, the families who own these businesses could go back, open the doors and turn the lights on again. Instead, they are closing for good, by the thousands.”
Although state mandates surrounding business operations are relaxing, county officials could still impose stricter limits on business activity in a bid to prevent further COVID-19 transmission.
State data confirms that as of Jan. 24, California has more than 3.1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections. After months of rising and peaking case numbers, accompanied by similarly troubling increases in hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus, 14-day averages suggest relief for the beleaguered state.
Looking at state data, good news is tempered with unchanging scenarios. The number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care units is slowly falling, which indicates fewer instances of severe COVID-19 cases. Simultaneously, the vast majority of California counties still have “widespread” COVID-19 transmission, indicating the pandemic is far from contained.
There was a petition to recall Newsom based on his statewide restrictions. The movement has since been linked to extremist groups that promote distrust in science and medicine as well as conspiracy theories, The Los Angeles Times reports. Many supporters of the recall are not from extremist groups, The Times adds.
The petition has garnered at least 1.2 million signatures. For the campaign to remove Newsom to be successful, the petition would need at least 1.5 million verified signatures by March 17.