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When Restaurants Reopen in California, Your Server Might Be Wearing a Mask

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There’s no opening date yet, but the new normal might mean half-full dining rooms, with servers wearing facemasks and gloves

California Faces First Case Of “Community Acquired” Coronavirus
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27, 2020
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced a joint plan to potentially reopen their states from stay-at-home orders that have been in place for weeks, though there is no official timetable as of yet. “I know you want the timeline,” California governor Gavin Newsom said today in a news conference just yet, “but we can’t get ahead of the dream just yet.”

Newsom did outline what such a reopening might look like, particularly for restaurants and diners, saying that half-full restaurant dining rooms would likely be common to start, as a way to promote continued physical distancing. Staff members could be wearing gloves and masks, as has been mandated for essential personnel already in the city of Los Angeles, and other changes including temperature checks at the door and disposable menus could become commonplace. “This could become the new normal,” Newsom offered, at least initially as restaurants and the broader economy slowly come online across not only California, but also Oregon and Washington states.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee have called their new initiative the Regional Pact to Recovery. It outlines how the three West Coast states will ultimately “restart public life and business,” which slowed down significantly due to the spread of COVID-19.

The three governors outlined a plan that restores personal restrictions, and businesses — including restaurants and bars — previously deemed as non-essential in the wake of COVID-19. Governor Newsom ordered the nation’s first stay-at-home order on March 19, and followed by both Oregon and Washington on March 23. Separately, President Trump has repeated claims that he has “total” control federally on reopening the economy and easing shelter in place mandates, though in reality most of those calls fall on America’s governors.

The West Coast states were some of the first to impose social distancing measures, and has seen a slowing of the virus in recent weeks. Still, Newsom declined to offer a firm timeline for a targeted reopening, saying that the rollout would need to be conducted slowly and in a “precise, targeted, gradual way” using “science and data,” including testing and continued tracing of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Newsom added that the continued practice of physical distancing would be crucial, and that he and the other West Coast governors would need to see ICU and overall hospital numbers continue to flatten. “If we see that over the course of a few weeks, with infrastructure in place in those key categories, then we will consider” a reopening, Newsom said.