"New Normal" - California Releases Indicators To Address In Order To Plan Modifying Stay-At-Home Orders

April 14, 2020

At a press conference this afternoon, California Governor Gavin Newsom released information about controlling COVID-19 into the future and indicators to analyze when planning to reopen the state's economy for a future described as the "new normal".

As the surge of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic begins to subside in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has detailed a transition plan to reopen the economy of the United States most populated state. Newsom today unveiled six key indicators that will guide California’s thinking for when and how to modify the stay-at-home and other orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, President Donald Trump has repeated claims that he has complete control on when to reopen the economy and ease stay-at-home place mandates, though constitutionally most of those decisions fall on state governors.

The Governor noted that the progress in flattening the curve, increased preparedness of our health care delivery system and the effects of other COVID-19 interventions have yielded positive results. However, these actions have also impacted the economy, poverty and overall health care in California. Any consideration of modifying the stay-at-home order must be done using a gradual, science-based and data-driven framework.

"While Californians have stepped up in a big way to flatten the curve and buy us time to prepare to fight the virus, at some point in the future we will need to modify our stay-at-home order," said Governor Newsom. "As we contemplate reopening parts of our state, we must be guided by science and data, and we must understand that things will look different than before."

Until we build herd immunity and/or a vaccine is developed, Newsom stated actions will be aligned to ensure our ability to care for the sick within our hospitals, prevent infection in people who are at high risk for severe disease, build the capacity to protect the health and well-being of the public, and
reduce social, emotional and economic disruptions. We as a state are beyond projections and have worked to "bend the curve," but officials stated we must maintain vigilant on protecting most vulnerable to a second surge of COVID-19 coronavirus infections.

"The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best," continued Newsom when asked about impending summer holidays.

A timeline on when a decision to reduce current precautionary restrictions depends on several factors. California’s six indicators for modifying the stay-at-home order are as follows: (1) The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed; (2) The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19; (3) The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges; (4) The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand; (5) The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and (6) The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary. Teams have been assembled to address and keep track of each of these six categories. The Governor said there is not a precise timeline for modifying the stay-at-home order, but that these six indicators will serve as the framework for making that decision. He did say that in two weeks, if we continue to see a decline in infections and a bolstered infrastructure to handle a second surge, he will address a possible timeline.

"You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves," suggested Newson. "Maybe a face mask, a dinner where the menu is disposable, where the tables, half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment."

Referring to the "new normal", Newsom also noted that things will look different as California makes modifications and urged that citizens be aware that things will not be the same as it was before COVID-19. For example, restaurants will have disposable menus with fewer tables and increased social distancing and food handling standards, and school classrooms will be reconfigured. Likely scenarios mentioned also include body temperatures being checked before entering a public business, distance learning for schools, and other new strategies. Newsom explained that we may have to redraw plans if we start moving in the wrong direction and toggle from stricter to looser precautionary measures based on data coming in.

Yesterday, Newsom released information about an agreement for a shared vision for reopening economies between California and Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. The governors explained that in the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 – with the coastal states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities again. In the coming days the governors, their staff and health officials will continue conversations about this regional pact to recovery.

For more information on California’s response, visit covid19.ca.gov.

This is a developing story: We will update this post as we learn more.