By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) – California curbside retail, manufacturing and other “lower-risk workplaces” should reopen within weeks as coronavirus testing and tracing improves, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.
Non-essential businesses like offices where remote work is not possible and childcare facilities would be in the first phase of reopening, along with some parks, state health officer Sonia Angell told a news briefing.
California schools could start their 2020 year as early as July to make up for a “learning loss” from closures and to allow the broader workforce to return to work, Newsom said.
“We believe we are weeks, not months away from making meaningful modifications,” Newsom told a briefing.
Newsom was among the first U.S. governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Angell said the March 19 order had helped lessen the rate spread of the coronavirus, but more work was needed to meet demand for testing and protective equipment.
The Democratic governor has yet to set an end date for the order and has said he will coordinate with Oregon and Washington on reopening once safety benchmarks are reached.
The state will be ready for reopening once it has met benchmarks like statewide contact tracing to help identify those who might be infected and a stabilization in coronavirus hospitalizations, Angell said. Businesses must also have “wage replacement” in place to allow workers to have paid sick leave, she added.
Much of the state’s business has ground to a halt during the lockdown, including prominent electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc, although some major tech companies such as Facebook Inc have kept employees working from home.
California ranks about midway among U.S. states in terms of per capita coronavirus testing, with 14,602 tests per million residents, according to the Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer group that publishes data on the pandemic.
Higher-risk California businesses like nail salons and activities such as concerts and large gatherings will take months to restart, Newsom added.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)