Gov. Gavin Newsom says California may be 'days, not weeks' from further reopening

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom's daily briefing Friday came amid multiple protests of his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and his slow rollback of shelter-in-place restrictions.

WATCH LIVE: 'Reopen California' protests demanding Gov. Newsom lift COVID-19 restrictions held in Sacramento

At least 11 protests were planned around the state at the same time demanding Newsom lift restrictions on businesses and shelter-in-place orders. Essential workers around the state, like some at Amazon, Whole Foods, and Target, are also holding May Day strikes to demand safer working conditions and hazard pay.

With that in mind, Newsom opened his press conference by thanking essential workers across all sectors and underlining the state's efforts to secure more protective equipment for them.

He also hinted that more restrictions may be lifted sooner than previously indicated.

"We're getting very close to making very meaningful augmentations to that stay-at-home order. We said 'weeks, not months' about four or five days ago. I want to say 'many days, not weeks.' As long as we continue to be prudent and thoughtful in certain modifications, I think we'll be making some announcements."

Newsom said he believed "we're getting very, very close" to lifting restrictions on more businesses, including the retail, hospitality and restaurant sectors. The governor said he'd elaborate on those changes next week.

MORE: Gov. Newsom announces 4 phases to reopen CA businesses and schools

"The only thing that's going to hold us back is the spread of this virus. And the only thing that is assured to advance the spread of the virus is thousands of people congregating together, not practicing social distancing or physical distancing."

As Newsom said those words, hundreds were gathered at the State Capitol in protest, many of them standing closely together and lacking protective gear.

"This disease doesn't know if you're a protester, a Democrat, a Republican, if you support the election of one candidate, or the ouster of another. It just knows one thing, and that is its host," said Newsom.

"No one wants to use the word patience, so I won't use that word," he said. "We're all impatient and we're deeply anxious and deeply desirous to start to turn the page and turn the corner. ... The data is starting to give us more confidence."

The data Newsom referred to includes the number of hospitalizations and "persons under investigation" as potential COVID-19 cases. Newsom said ICU hospitalizations were flat over the last 24 hours, overall coronavirus hospitalizations dropped by 2% and persons under investigation dropped a significant 13.9%.

But Friday also marked two less optimistic milestones; the number of coronavirus-related deaths in California topped 2,000 and the total number of positive cases surpassed 50,000.

Gov. Newsom has repeatedly said he's feeling the pressure to reopen the state more quickly, but is leaning on scientific data to decide on timing.

"Politics will not drive our decision making. Protests will not drive our decision making. Political pressure will not drive our decision making," he said earlier this week. "The science, data and public health will drive our decision making."

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