By Sharon Bernstein and Maria Caspani
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California, the most populous U.S. state, took another step on Tuesday toward ending sweeping lockdowns imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic, allowing barber shops and hair salons in most counties to operate for the first time in more than two months.
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted orders that banned church services and in-store retail shopping, although with restrictions in place to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
“(California) is flattening the curve. Expanding testing. And carefully re-opening businesses,” Newsom said on Twitter. “But we MUST continue to take this seriously.”
Although 47 of California’s 53 counties have qualified to reopen barber shops and hair salons under the complex formula established by Newsom and health officials, they will remain closed in two of its largest and best-known cities: Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Statewide nail and brow salons, tattoo shops, gyms, bars and entertainment venues as well as community centers and public pools are still banned from operating.
Newsom slapped stay-at-home orders on businesses across the state on March 19 as the pandemic began to spread nationwide.
While lifting the ban on services at places of worship, the governor limited the number of people who can gather at one time to 25 percent of a building’s capacity.
Last week the Trump administration accused Newsom of discrimination by preventing places of worship from meeting while businesses and film studios were allowed to carry on working.
While clearing the way for shopping at retail stores, the governor required owners to adopt strict cleaning measures and limit the number of shoppers at any given time.
STOCK EXCHANGE REOPENS
The New York Stock Exchange opened for the first time in two months, although fewer traders were allowed on the floor and employees were told to wear masks.
Stocks rallied early in the day on optimism about the development of coronavirus vaccines and a revival of business activity, but gains were trimmed later in the day.
The New York City suburb of New Rochelle, home to one of the country’s earliest coronavirus clusters, believed centered around a synagogue, took the first steps to reopen.
Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases for the week ending on Sunday as the U.S. death toll nears 100,000. Florida reported a nearly 6 percent increase, while New York registered a double-digit decline.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged President Donald Trump to invest in major infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads and rail systems to jumpstart the economy as states further relax lockdowns.
Cuomo, a Democrat who has criticized the Republican president over his handling of the pandemic, will meet with the president in Washington this week.
“This is one of the things I want to talk to the president about … You want to reopen the economy. Let’s do something creative, let’s do it fast, let’s put Americans back to work,” Cuomo said.
Beaches, fitness centers and hotels in Florida’s Broward County, including Fort Lauderdale, got the green light to open on Tuesday with some restrictions.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Maria Caspani in New York, Jeff Mason in Washington, D.C., Rich McKay in Atlanta and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Will Dunham, Cynthia Osterman and Howard Goller)