Newsom eases restrictions on retail, but Santa Clara County order remains
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled steps Monday to modify California’s stay-at-home order allowing some retailers to reopen under certain restrictions, but Santa Clara County businesses will likely stay shuttered until the county’s public health officer revises her order to match the state’s direction.

During his briefing, Newsom announced retail clothing, florists, bookstores, sporting goods and music stores could reopen as early as Friday, along with logistics and manufacturers that support them, only for curbside pickup and other restrictions as part of the state’s second of four stages to reopen the economy.

On Thursday, the state will issue guidance for retail stores to follow physical distancing and other measures. There will also be some regional variations, allowing certain counties to slightly alter measures based on local needs to address the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We are entering into the next phase this week,” Newsom said. “End of the week, with modifications, we will allow retail to start operating across the spectrum. We will allow regional variation, but only after self certification of particular criteria that will allow even further implementation of our phase two. This is a very positive sign and it’s happened for only one reason: The data says it can happen.”

But in Santa Clara County, the latest shelter-in-place order, which went into effect Monday and lasts until May 31, doesn’t allow retail businesses to operate. And, according to the county’s frequently asked questions, residents must comply with both orders — unless they differ.

“If the restrictions in the two orders are different, you must comply with the stricter of the two orders,” the county website said. That means residents must follow the county orders for now, unless Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody amends or changes her most recent order.

Newsom said he based his decision on the state’s reopening roadmap, which gauges progress related to flattening hospitalizations, increasing health care inventory, testing, contact tracing capacity and ensuring hospitals are prepared for a surge in patients. However, higher risk nonessential office workplaces will be required to stay closed, and restaurants won’t be allowed to reopen seated dining areas. Shopping malls will remain shuttered under the newest state guidance, as will schools.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese spoke to reporters at the County Government Building Friday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Along with other Bay Area counties, Cody’s most recent shelter-in-place order loosened restrictions on some businesses and outdoor activities, allowing construction workers, landscapers, gardeners and realtors to return to work while maintaining social distancing requirements.

Now county officials aren’t sure how the local orders might change again following Newsom’s announcement.

“The county is reviewing what the governor has said and once changes are made to the state order, the county will comment as appropriate,” a Santa Clara County statement said Monday.

Governments can approve their own reduced measures as long as those leaders have certain virus testing, tracing and tracking protocol in place, according to Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health. Likewise, some counties may opt to take things more slowly, based on local health data.

Based on Newsom’s announcement, Supervisor Dave Cortese said officials need to ensure physical distancing between customers and employees and other protections. Still, he said the state announcement was “hopeful.”

“There’s some direction from the governor’s office that creates hopefulness, that we’re getting back to normal, that there’s a moderated approach to this,” Cortese said. “This is really about different cities and different counties tailoring approaches, and I think that should be hopeful for people.”

Matt Mahood, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Organization, said large retailers such as Target, Walmart and Walgreens have been allowed to operate, while smaller stores have been forced to close after thriving just six weeks prior, before public health measures responding to the pandemic.

Many small business owners in San Jose say they’re struggling to keep their financial heads above water as the coronavirus closures drag on.

“It’s actually coming to a point where it makes sense for them to open because they should be able to meet the same safety protocols that big retail stores can do, too,” Mahood said.

As the region aims to get back some of the 200,000 lost jobs, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who formed an economic recovery council for Silicon Valley, said officials must increase health care capacity to better monitor and prevent the virus’ spread.

“It’s a hopeful step, but the governor’s direction was a clear indication that the onus is on our region — all the counties together — to meet targets for testing and other critical thresholds for more dramatically reopening the economy,” Liccardo said.

Newsom said regions such as the Bay Area, which has stricter public health measures compared to other parts of the state, have the right to maintain their orders. But even with loosened restrictions on retail in some regions, he said cases aren’t isolated geographically, with people traveling between different parts of the state.

“We have to manage this from a broader perspective, not just a very small perspective,” the governor said. “But we do, nonetheless, recognize the variations and the diversity and across the state.”

Contact Eduardo Cuevas at eduardomcuevas@gmail.com or follow @eduardomcuevas on Twitter.

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