Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

Macy’s, Kohls and Nordstrom are sanitizing their stores and getting ready for customers as some of the nation’s businesses start to thaw after two months in a coronavirus deep

  • Feb. 1: A concession building at San Clemente’s North Beach was exposed to the elements. The city is advertising for a summer concessionaire. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Buena Park’s Elijah Gates, right, tries to sprint past an Orange High Panterh during a nonleague game in 2015.

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  • A sunny Caribbean day at the main town beach at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon, Costa Rica.

  • Lakers head coach Luke Walton look on as guard Jose Calderon, left, welcomes guard Lou Williams back to the bench during the first half of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dev Patel, left, and Sunny Pawar arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • President Donald Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, speaks after signing an executive action that will order the construction of a Mexican border wall, at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington on Wednesday. The order also indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and institutes a temporary halt on all refugees. (Photo by Doug Mills, The New York Times)

  • Actress Jaclyn Smith is 71. (Photo by John M. Heller/Getty Images)

  • Residents check on a flooded street before turning back as Hurricane Hermine nears the Florida coast, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cedar Key, Fla. Tropical Storm Hermine strengthened into a hurricane Thursday and steamed toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, where people put up shutters, nailed plywood across store windows and braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade.

  • Robin Christenson pours a sample.




And new rules Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled Thursday, May 7, outline parameters for how California businesses like restaurants, tanning salons and stores may soon be joining them.

But don’t make plans to visit Southern California’s shopping malls anytime soon.

There’s a long laundry list of benchmarks California counties must meet to reopen ahead of a yet-to-be-announced statewide schedule. And, so far, Southern California counties fail to meet the two biggest criteria right off the bat: Reducing the number of COVID-related cases and COVID-related deaths.

Under the state’s new criteria, counties can seek to reopen faster when they go two weeks without a single coronavirus death and just one new case for every 10,000 residents.

That’s the equivalent of zero deaths and fewer than 1,800 new cases in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties combined.

Instead, there were 15,634 new cases — nine times the state benchmark — and 778 deaths in the two weeks ending Friday, May 8.

“We do not meet that,” said Dr. Nichole Quick, Orange County Health Officer. “What that means is we will move through Stage 2 at the pace the state does. We do not qualify to move faster.”

Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries complained Thursday on Facebook that only a very rural, low-population county has a shot at achieving a zero death rate.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries listens, left as Bruce Barton, director of county’s emergency management department reports during the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting in Riverside on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

“If you are not one of the few lucky businesses that the state is allowing to reopen with restricted curbside service, well then your business and employees may not see any customers for a long time,” Jeffries wrote. “This is NOT the news and future that the county of Riverside needed to hear.”

Florists and book stores

On Friday, California officially entered the initial phase of “Stage 2” reopening, meaning florists, music and book stores, clothing stores, toy stores and sporting goods stores can re-open now, but only for curbside service or delivery and in a socially distanced way, with masks, gloves required and hand sanitizer outside the door.

Manufacturing and warehouses that support early Stage 2 retail also can reopen with workers spaced 6 feet apart, open-air break rooms and delivery truck personnel wearing masks and gloves.

More advanced “Stage 2” reopenings will include shopping malls and swap meets, logistics businesses, car washes, pet grooming, tanning salons, offices, outdoor museums, childcare facilities, galleries and dine-in restaurants – all with added precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.

Swee Woo, of Torrance, takes skateboards under her red umbrella along Anaheim Street which was closed to cars so that people could ride, walk and skate while exploring the neighborhood as part of the city’s Beach Streets Saturday, November 12, 2016, Long Beach, CA. Woo, made a point of only using public transportation to get from Torrance to Long Beach for the event. The street was closed from Orange Avenue to PCH and featured music, entertainment and businesses along the route.Photo by Steve McCrank, Press Telegram/SCNG

Counties that have reduced cases and deaths will be able to move into that advanced phase more rapidly if they also meet such criteria as having sufficient hospital capacity, a two-week supply of protective gear for all nursing homes and capacity to house at least 15% of its homeless population.

For example, local hospitals must be able to accommodate a 35% surge in COVID-19 cases.

In addition, counties must have the capacity to test 1.5 people for every 1,000 residents and must have 15 staff members to trace COVID-19 contacts for every 100,000 residents. That’s the equivalent to having the capacity to test almost 27,000 people and to having nearly 2,700 contact tracers in the local region.

Newsom said about two dozen counties started the process of applying for accelerated reopening by Friday.

“The rest of the state will gradually move through Stage 2,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services.

Most Bay Area counties are also far from meeting Newsom’s new criteria for reopening many businesses. Only one out of 10 Bay Area counties — Santa Cruz County — had had just one coronavirus case per 10,000 residents the last 14 days, and just two — Santa Cruz and Napa counties — had zero deaths.

Leading the state

Meeting the state benchmarks is particularly challenging in densely populated Southern California, which leads the state in coronavirus transmission, positive cases and deaths, Ghaly said.

“Southern California counties certainly have many more cases compared to Northern California at the moment,” he said. “ … That data should certainly cause local officials to pause. Until they meet that criteria, they can’t move forward rapidly.”

People try and stay cool on a hot day as the ride, jog or walk past a closed beach due to the Coronavirus Pandemic in Long Beach on Thursday, May 7, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Quick, the Orange County public health officer, could not predict when Orange County would get to the benchmark of zero deaths and one new case per 10,000 residents in a two-week period, although she believes it will be in weeks, not months.

She said Orange County has the state-recommended surge capacity for hospitals, but the county still is trying to determine if it meets other Stage 2 benchmarks, such as testing, contact tracing and homeless housing capacity. The county has 50 tracers but would need 476 tracers to pass the benchmark.

San Bernardino County increased testing capacity six-fold in the past few weeks and more than doubled its number of contract tracers to about 50, spokesman David Wert said. Under the state’s Stage 2 benchmark, it would need a capacity to do 3,270 coronavirus tests and employ 327 contact tracers.

“The zero deaths over 14 days is not achievable in the foreseeable future for any large county, including San Bernardino County,” Wert said. “Which is perhaps why the governor is hinting that he is flexible on that benchmark and some of the others.”

Riverside County has a capacity for just over 3,200 tests and about 70 contact tracers, with a goal of hiring about 300, said Jose Arballo Jr., a spokesman for Riverside University Health System-Public Health. The county would need a capacity for 3,705 tests and 370 contact tracers under the state criteria.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said the new criteria angered supervisors throughout Southern California and across the political spectrum, who felt it moved the goalposts from demonstrating adequate hospital surge capacity to handling infection spikes.

“This is not a legitimate metric,” Wagner said. “It’s just not justified by the science. The whole idea of flattening the curve was not about eliminating the disease … it was about managing cases so you didn’t overtax the health care system, and you’re in a better position for helping people survive.”

But Newsom continued to praise the detailed state metrics released this week at his daily press briefing, saying more announcements about reopening would be coming in the next few weeks.

“Not every part of the state will move (to reopen) at the same time,” Newsom said Friday. “And that is very healthy because it shows it’s a data-driven approach. I know everyone would like to move very quickly.”

SCNG staff writer Nikie Johnson and the Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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