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Most California Counties Can Reopen Within the Next Few Weeks

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom loosens some guidelines on reopening for some counties

Protesters Rally In San Francisco To Open Up State
Demonstrators protest California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s continued statewide shelter in place order outside of San Francisco City Hall on May 01, 2020 in San Francisco, California. 
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

In a surprising move, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that most counties across the state could initiate the next phase of reopenings as early as June 1 — allowing restaurant dining rooms, hair salons, retail shopping, and even sporting events (sans spectators) to open within the next few weeks. The move comes amid pressure from local officials who argue their communities are safe enough to allow businesses reopen, reports the LA Times.

Newsom said 53 of the state’s 58 counties could loosen stay-at-home orders given revised guidelines that he initially released a few weeks ago. In April, Newsom’s guidelines stated that counties could not have more than one confirmed coronavirus case per 10,000 residents, but has since revised to 25 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. The previous guidelines also stated counties must not have a single COVID-19 death in the past 14 days, a standard that has now been removed. Instead, counties must show that their hospital cases are stabilized, not increasing by more than 5 percent over the past seven days, or more than 20 hospital cases in a single day. The less stringent requirements means that counties with fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths will have a head start in reopening over more populated counties like Los Angeles and San Diego.

Ahead of any official permission from the state, Modoc, Yuba, and Sutter counties authorized all businesses to reopen early this month, including gyms, nail salons, and retail shops. Restaurant dining rooms in Yuba and Sutter counties also opened, though the state Alcohol Beverage Control sent agents threatening to revoke licenses for those businesses that defied the state dining room closure mandates.

As of May 18, five California counties have had more than 100 COVID-19 total deaths, with Los Angeles leading the state with over 1,800 total deaths. LA County, with a population of over 10 million, also has the second-highest number of cases per 100,000 residents, at 376. (Imperial County, with just 171,000 residents, leads the state with 443 per 100,000 people.) The high number of cases and deaths means LA restaurants might still be weeks, or even months away from a reopening scenario, while neighboring counties like Ventura, Riverside, and Orange could see dining rooms open just after Memorial Day.

Across California, there were more than 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 3,200 deaths.