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California Gov. Gavin Newsom praised his constituents on Tuesday for helping mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus as he outlined a plan for loosening the stay-at-home orders in the country’s most populous state, but warned that “we are not out of the woods yet.”
Newsom, a Democrat, said during a news briefing that residents’ adherence to the stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines had “bent the curve” on the number of infections from the contagion as he laid out a six-point plan for modifying the quarantine measures sometime in the near future.
“The models have changed because of your behavior,” Newsom said. “This will not be a permanent state.”
Newsom did not give a specific date for lifting the state’s stay-at-home orders, but added it could occur in different locations throughout the state at different times. He said that the state should have a timeline prepared in about two weeks.
“There is no light switch here, it is more like a dimmer,” he said, noting that stricter measures could be implemented again if the state begins to see more infections.
As of Tuesday there just under 24,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 715 deaths, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. These numbers are far lower than were predicted even with social distancing put in place.
Newsom said the state is moving into an “optimistic phase” in the battle against the virus before laying out the parameters that need to be met before the stay-at-home orders are lifted. The plan calls for enhanced testing and contact tracing, monitoring of vulnerable segments of the population, addressing needs of hospitals to deal with any additional surges of the virus, continuing to work with researchers on therapeutic treatments, creating a plan for safely reopening businesses, schools and other institutions, and preparing Californians for what he called “turning the faucet back on.”
“The process could be the most challenging,” Newsom said, noting that stricter measures could be reinstated once lifted if infections continue.
Newsom also made clear a number of times throughout the press conference that residents should not let down their guards and they should continue to practice social distancing in an effort to further impede the virus’ spread.
“We are not out of the woods yet, we are not spiking the ball,” he said.
California’s plan comes a day after Newsom – along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee – announced an agreement for reopening their states’ economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future.
The governors said health outcomes and science, not politics, would drive decision-making. Any modifications to each state’s stay-at-home order will be grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the health impacts of COVID-19, they added, saying no large-scale reopening will take place until metrics reflected a significant decline in the spread of the virus.
A number of states in the Northeast – including New York, which has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. – announced a similar plan on Monday.