California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday revealed a "framework" to eventually get the state back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, including temporarily "redrawing our floor plans" in schools and businesses to allow for greater physical distancing.
"That is quite literally a responsibility, if we are moving into a next phase, of our businesses so that we can practice safe physical distancing within the premise of a business, within and around a school site, and facilities large and small, public and private, all throughout the state of California — not just on the streets," Newsom said.
Dr. Sonia Angell, the head of the state Public Health Department, said that restaurants would "likely be able to reopen but have fewer tables" and that face coverings are "likely to become common in public."
Newsom said any time frame is up in the air. He laid out several benchmarks the state needs to hit before restrictions could start to be lifted, including creating enough room in hospitals to handle another surge of patients and providing enough personal protective equipment to protect first responders.
Newsom also said wider testing capacity would be needed, as well as therapeutics to help treat patients.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," Newsom said. "Let's not make the mistake of pulling the plug too early."
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He said that he expected to have a better idea of timing in about two weeks but that "the prospects of mass gatherings is negligible, at best, until we get to herd immunity and a vaccine." Large-scale events aren't "currently in the cards" for June, July or August unless something changes, he added.
Schools wouldn't be reconfigured for physical distancing until the fall, Newsom said, and even then the state is considering staggering start times for students.
Newsom has garnered widespread praise for his aggressive handling of the pandemic in his state, which includes declaring a statewide shelter-in-place order last month for its 40 million residents.
The state has more than 24,000 positive cases and over 700 deaths, while New York has recorded almost 200,000 positive cases and over 10,000 deaths.
On Monday, Newsom and the governors of Washington and Oregon announced that they'd agreed to form a "Western states pact" to coordinate their efforts to reopen.