Hair stylists and barbers in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties on Monday (Aug. 31) will be able to flip over their open sign and let customers back inside their establishments, under new COVID-19 reopening rules issued yesterday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The governor yesterday announced a new, color-coded process for reopening businesses throughout the state, his fourth stab at a reopening plan in the five months of the lockdown, which has cost millions of jobs and forced tens of thousands of businesses to close permanently.
Aside from hair salons and barbershops being allowed to operate, many of the same businesses, such as stores and other retail, as before are allowed to operate, just with fewer people.
Kart racing, mini golf and batting cages are allowed to be open with certain restrictions.
Restaurants can still only operate outside or for takeout.
Counties will move through the system based on their rate of coronavirus cases and the percentage of positive tests. Previously, the state used several other metrics, like hospitalizations and testing capacity, to determine whether counties could reopen.
The four stages are:
• Yellow, or minimal, which means there is less than one new daily case per 100,000 and less than 2% positive tests. There are only three counties in the state — Modoc, Alpine and Tuolumne — that are in this category.
• Orange, or moderate, which means there are one to 3.9 new daily cases per 100,000 and 4%-4.9% positive tests. There are eight counties that are in this category.
• Red, or substantial, which means there are four to seven new daily cases per 100,000 and 5%-8% positive tests. There are nine counties that are in this category.
• Purple, or widespread, meaning there are more than seven new daily cases per 100,000 and more than 8% positive tests. Both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with 36 of the state’s 58 counties are in this category.
San Mateo County has 7.7 new cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 4.8%.
Santa Clara County has eight new cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 3.5%.
San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy said in a statement that while county officials still dispute being on the state’s monitoring list, the loosened restrictions are a good sign.
“We have repeatedly said that the spread of the virus in our community is not linked to businesses like hair salons and we could see the economic hardship on those businesses that couldn’t modify to operate outdoors. We are very happy to see them reopen and with the effort of our residents to wear face coverings and avoid large gatherings, we hope to soon move to the next tier and loosen even more restrictions,” Callagy said. “Our comeback depends on all of us.”
County officials are not the only ones displeased with Newsom’s new restrictions.
Owners of restaurants, gyms and nail salons criticized the state’s new rules guiding when businesses can reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the plan will bring financial misery to their industries and further weaken the state’s battered economy.
The California Restaurant Association said in a statement that restaurants will continue to close permanently around the state.
The group called on Newsom to hold a special session of the Legislature to work on an aid package.
Restaurants “are closing for good, by the thousands,” said association President Jot Condie. The group estimates as many as 1 million restaurant workers have been furloughed or laid off during the pandemic.
If a county improves and moves to the next tier, restaurants could operate with 25% capacity indoors or 100 patrons, whichever is fewer. But even if they get to the tier with the least restrictions, indoor capacity can only reach 50%.
Francesca Schuler, an advisory board member of the California Fitness Alliance, called Newsom’s revised rules a step backward that would devastate the struggling industry. She said she was perplexed why health clubs are being slapped with stricter limits on capacity than restaurants, especially because customers can work out individually, on spaced-out equipment and wear masks.
“We will not survive this as an industry,” she said.
This is Newsom’s fourth attempt at a reopening plan. Originally the plan was to reopen all businesses in mid-April. That was in line with the claim Newsom and other officials were making that the stay-at-home order would only last three weeks in order to “flatten the curve” of hospitalizations. While the surge in hospitalizations never happened, the stay-at-home order was extended indefinitely.
In May, Newsom announced a four-plase plan for reopening. In July, Newsom announced a watch list of counties, based on coronavirus factors like hospitalizations and new cases, that would determine reopenings.
In this fourth attempt at a reopening plan, counties will move through the system based on their rate of coronavirus cases and the percentage of positive tests.
But the new plan quickly drew criticism.
For instance, nail salon operators are upset that hair salons can open inside, while they must do business outside.
“Separating hair from nails-skin services is arbitrarily discriminatory, dividing our barbering-beauty industry along gender, racial and industry-sector lines,” said a statement from the Professional Beauty Federation of California.
The average number of new daily cases in California has been falling along with the infection rate and hospitalizations, which peaked at 7,170 on July 21 and since dropped to about 4,300.
The new plan is aimed at preventing a surge in infections, like the one between Memorial Day and July 4 as the state began reopening the first time around. That prompted Newsom to shut down bars, restaurants for indoor dining and a slew of other businesses about two months ago.