Everything to know about California's confusing coronavirus reopening plan, summer shutdown and what comes next

Are gyms open? Can schools reopen? Is my nail salon shutting back down? We're here to help clear up confusion over the big changes in California.

ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
The latest videos about coronavirus in the US
Here's a look at the latest videos about novel coronavirus and the spread in the U.S. and across the world.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered the state backtrack on some parts of its reopening plan. Now, many of us aren't sure what's open, what's closed and what the answer to those questions will be next week.

INTERACTIVE: Here's the reopening status of every Bay Area county

Let's get you up to speed. Here's everything you need to know about California's admittedly confusing reopening (and now re-closing plan) during the COVID-19 era:

Calfornia's four-stage reopening plan

Let's take a step back for a minute and remember what it was like in April. After just over a month of sheltering in place, it looked like California had pretty much flattened the curve. Gov. Newsom laid out a vision for how the state would reopen businesses in four phases.

Stage 1: Everyone is either staying at home or a member of the essential workforce

Stage 2: Reopening lower risk workplaces, including: manufacturing, schools, childcare and curbside retail pickup

Stage 3: Reopening higher risk workplaces, which require close proximity to other people, including: hair salons, nail salons, gyms, movie theaters, sports without live audiences, in-person religious services

Stage 4: Ending the stay-at-home order, which would allow for the reopening of: concert venues, convention centers, sports with live audiences

What counties were allowed to reopen?

California didn't move through the stages of reopening in lockstep. Instead, the state started to release guidelines for every business sector allowed to reopen and more or less let counties decide how quickly they wanted to move through the stages.

REOPENING CA: Here's everything allowed to open in CA (and what's been ordered to close)

To make sure counties didn't zoom through the phases too quickly, the state created what it called the "attestation process." Basically, if a county wanted to open gyms, bars, hair salons, dine-in restaurants, or other Phase 3 businesses, it had to certify the spread of COVID-19 is under control locally. To qualify, counties had to prove they had stable hospitalizations, COVID-19 cases on the decline, adequate contact tracing efforts and a few other criteria. (More here.)

Once a county files an application, and the Department of Public Health approves it, that county has "variance" and can move into Phase 3. At first it was only rural counties that qualified, but the state approved more and more applications until pretty much everyone was given the green light to move into more reopening. On July 15, Alameda County received variance, leaving Imperial County as the only county without attestation.

What about the county watch list?

Here's where things started to get even more complicated. Once pretty much the entire state was allowed to move into Phase 3 of reopening, and many counties opened dine-in restaurants, shopping malls, bars and other businesses, there were early signs that California hadn't totally beat the coronavirus pandemic.

So the state created a monitoring list of counties where COVID-19 trends were particularly concerning. It started with about a dozen counties at the end of May. By mid-July, more than half of California counties are on the watch list.

WATCH LIST: Counties where COVID-19 is getting worse

App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

What happens to counties on the watch list?

At first, the list was created for the state to provided "targeted engagement" with local health departments, helping them get access to resources that could curb the spread of the virus. But as the situation continued to worsen and spread, Gov. Newsom announced the watch list would be used to roll back reopening.

If a county was on the watch list for three or more days, they'd be asked to close high-risk businesses - even if that county has variance.

CALIFORNIA CLOSURES: What Gov. Newsom's announcement means for every Bay Area county

Rolling back reopening

On July 13, Gov. Newsom ordered a major rollback of the state's reopening plan in attempt to curb the rampant spread of COVID-19. The sectors that have to close everywhere in California are:

  • Bars (both indoor and outdoor)
  • Indoor restaurant dining
  • Indoor wineries and tasting rooms
  • Movie theaters
  • Other indoor family entertainment centers, like bowling alleys and laser tag
  • Indoor museums and zoos
  • Cardrooms

Newsom ordered even more business sectors to close in county's that are on the state's monitoring list for more than three days. The businesses that have to close in those counties include:

  • Gyms
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Nail salons and other personal care services
  • Indoor malls
  • Non-essential offices
  • Indoor places of worship

What comes next?

It really depends on what the trend lines of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations look like over the next few weeks. Newsom may decide to shut down even more business, or slowly reopen them again.

We're tracking reopening and closing in the Bay Area closely. Check out our interactive map below for the latest:

When will California move into Phase 4?

We posed the question to several medical experts and they basically told us not to hold our breath. We shouldn't expect to see Phase 4 reopening of live audience sports and concerts until 2021 at the earliest, when we have a coronavirus vaccine.