Governor Newsom Announces New Blueprint for Economic Recovery

COVID-19 Update

California Moving to a Four-Tiered Blueprint for Business Reopening

On Friday, August 28, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a new and simpler four-tiered classification system, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy to evaluate regional and business sector health risk and guide counties as they reopen businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses across the state have largely been closed since the Governor issued the first Stay-at-Home Order on March 19, 2020, and additional restrictions were subsequently put in place in July. While some industries have continued to operate with modifications, such as outdoor dining and even patio haircuts, other businesses have been closed for nearly six months. In counties on the state’s previous “monitoring list,” additional closures have been required. Importantly, the monitoring list will no longer dictate counties’ reopening as of Monday, August 31, 2020, which is the date the new blueprint takes effect.

The New Blueprint

The new four-tiered, color-coded blueprint announced today provides additional guidance to counties as they reopen business sectors that previously remained closed. In this new blueprint, a county may advance through the tiers—up or down—based on the county’s case rates and test positivity rate. This new blueprint represents a departure from the state’s previous approach, in which counties were placed on the state’s monitoring list based on positive test rates, hospitalization trends and deaths, and many businesses were directed to be either open or closed based on whether or not the county was on the list. Under the new directives, which authorize status changes more gradually, a county must remain in a current tier for a 21-day period before the county will advance to the next tier, in order to account for the COVID-19 incubation period and fully measure potential increases or decreases in infections. In addition, a county must consistently satisfy the metrics for movement to the next tier for at least two weeks before advancing into that tier, and can move only one tier at a time.

The state will also maintain the ability to “toggle back” if a county fails to meet the criteria for their current tier for two weeks straight. The Governor noted that the state will maintain an “emergency brake” in order to close down sectors if there is a concerning increase in metrics such as hospitalizations, ICU capacity or other criteria.

Current Distribution of Counties by Tier

The top tier of the list, coded purple for “widespread” risk level, corresponds to the same metrics as the previous threshold for the state’s monitoring list: an 8% positive test rate and no more than seven new cases per 100,000 residents per day. As of today, the monitoring list includes 38 purple counties (covering 87% of the state population), nine red counties, eight orange counties and three yellow counties.

Restrictions by Tier

Each tier has specific on-premises occupancy rates for businesses based on limitations specified in the fire code, similar to previous restrictions. For example:

  • Purple – Many non-essential indoor business operations are closed, and other open businesses are subject to modifications and restrictions:
    • Gyms and fitness centers – open outdoors only, with additional modifications, such as social distancing
    • Offices/nonessential businesses – employees should work remotely
    • Indoor malls – although previously closed in monitoring list counties, they may now open indoor activities, with a maximum capacity of 25%
    • Schools – closed for in-person instruction
  • Red – Some nonessential indoor business operations are closed, and other open businesses are subject to modifications and restrictions:
    • Gyms and fitness centers – can open indoors with modifications, with a maximum capacity of 10%
    • Offices/nonessential businesses – employees should continue to work remotely
    • Schools – generally closed for in-person instruction, but may open for in-person instruction if a county remains in the red tier for at least two weeks
  • Orange – Some indoor business operations are open with modifications and restrictions:
    • Gyms and fitness centers – open indoors with modifications, with a maximum capacity of 25%
    • Offices/nonessential businesses – offices may open for indoor operations with modifications; however, remote work is encouraged
    • Schools – may open for in-person instruction
  • Yellow – Most indoor business operations are open with modifications and some restrictions:
    • Gyms and fitness centers are open indoors, with a maximum capacity of 50%
    • Offices/nonessential businesses – offices may open for indoor operations with modifications; however, remote work is encouraged
    • Schools – may open for in-person instruction

Timing

This new blueprint takes effect Monday, August 31, 2020. Notably, the Governor did not announce a sunset date for these restrictions.

Assessments will take place on a weekly basis, every Tuesday, beginning on September 8, 2020. This “seven-day lag” will give the state more confidence that data is reliable and trends are consistent.

Health Equity

The new tiered blueprint also includes a health equity component: Counties will be required to “demonstrate a county's ability to address the most impacted communities within a county,” including through data collection, testing access, contact tracing, supportive isolation and outreach. It is not immediately clear how the state will consider the health equity component in evaluating a county’s compliance with the tier-based metrics.

Education

The state restrictions on in-person K-12 education remain the same as those previously announced on July 17. However, rather than restricting counties that are listed on the state’s previous monitoring list, restrictions on in-person instruction are based on tiers. Schools in counties that are in Tier 1 of the monitoring list are not permitted to reopen, with an exception for waivers granted by local health departments for TK-6 grades. Schools are eligible to reopen for in-person instruction once the county is out of Tier 1 for two weeks, similar to the prior requirement of being off the monitoring list for at least 14 days.

County-Specific Restrictions

The revamped COVID-19 website includes a tool that will allow Californians to track the status of all counties and of individual industries and business sectors. However, note that this website does not include any county health officer orders or other local restrictions that may be more restrictive but not less restrictive than state rules.

Manatt will continue to monitor developments in California and county-level COVID-19 regulations and reopening protocols. An up-to-date county-by-county list of restrictions is available from Manatt here.

manatt-black

ATTORNEY ADVERTISING

pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

© 2020 Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.

All rights reserved