Optimism is couched by high levels of concern and caution
As if waking from a slumber, the entire nation begins to discuss what “reopening” will look like for the communities and economy.
Now a month into spring, the weather is beginning to beg for revival of spirits, and with local San Luis Obispo County COVID-19 numbers and California state numbers both taking a bend toward the better, discussion among county, state, and national leaders begins to shift toward recovery.
“Both showed just a modest increase,” Newsom said of the number of new cases and number of coronavirus-related deaths. “The curve is being bent because of you.”
On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom set the stage for a Tuesday briefing in which to unveil a collaborative effort between west coast states to open up the community and economy.
“I want to continue to remind you of the importance of this work,” Newsom referenced the shelter-at-home effort, “as we continue to come back to some sort of normalcy.”
As the weather warms and the economy perks toward reopening, there remains a danger of relapse of the effort that brought the nation and state to a place to consider reopening.
“I don’t want to understate the imperative of meeting this moment by practicing appropriate social distancing so we can continue to bend the curve,” Newsom said. “But we are at a point of time that we are beginning to socialize conversations to more formally establish what it would look like to begin the process of incremental release of the stay-at-home orders.”
Newsom referenced “behind-the-scenes” conversations state leaders have had in planning for recovery of the community and economy on the west coast — specifically, between Washington, Oregon and California.
“That spirit [of collaboration] was on display at scale last year with the forest fires we had, particularly in Northern California,” Newsom said. “They brought down mutual aid engines from Oregon and Washington states that allowed us to concentrate our resources in some of the hot spots in Southern California.”
As the plan to ease shelter-at-home orders begins to take shape, it is a coordinated partnership between the states to protect the future of the community and economy.
“It is a spirit of collaboration and a spirit of partnership,” Newsom said, “a recognition that this pandemic, this virus, knows no boundaries, no borders, you can’t build walls around it, and you can’t deny basic, fundamental facts.”
The opening up of the community and economy is not expected to be swift. It is expected to be slow, possibly shifty between an expansion of mobility and economy and a contraction of mobility and economy, based on facts surrounding COVID-19 exposure in the community.
“We will be driven by facts,” Newsom said. “We will be driven by evidence. We will be driven by science. We will be driven by our public health advisors, and we will be driven by the collaborative spirit that defines the best of us.”
The resurgence of economy and mobility will demand a high level of personal care, responsibility, and swift and observant action by individuals to continue suppressing COVID-19.
“This transition, where we do see the light at the end of the tunnel, may be the most challenging,” Newsom said. “This is where science must be the guide. We must not be ideological by any means.”
On Tuesday, Newsom began with a framework description of what the process of reopening the community and economy will be based on.
Six Elements of Reopening Framework
1) Testing and tracking
2) Maintaining our vigilance in protecting the most vulnerable
3) Addressing ongoing needs of hospitals and medical infrastructure
4) Continue the work of engaging academia, research partners, and frontline companies
5) Redrawing “floorplans” to practice safe physical distancing in businesses, schools and public areas
6) Reinstatement of more vigorous controls, moving between stricter and looser guidelines
Newsom recognized the voluntary effort of millions of Californians who made the effort to defend against the spread of COVID-19.
“You have bent the curve in California,” Newsom said. “The models have changed because of your behavior.”
But with a record number of coronavirus-related deaths overnight, 758, the governor related that “We are not out of the woods yet. We are not spiking the ball.”
Life is not expected to return to a normal the nation knew before, but Newsom and Dr. Sonia Angell both admitted that the current circumstances are not sustainable.
The key indicators for loosening of shelter-at-home orders will be largely based on reductions in confirmed cases, hospitalizations and ICU populations.
“In two weeks, if we see a decline in hospitalizations and ICUs, and we see this infrastructure, ask me [when we will reopen] then, and we will be able to be more prescriptive,” Newsom said. “We don’t want to put the economy at further risk by opening too early.”
The entire message by Newsom was couched in concern and caution but led by optimism because of the effort by millions of Californians.
“We are finally seeing some rays of sunshine on the horizon,” Newsom said. “It is incumbent on all of us. We will not pull the plug early.”
In answering questions about upcoming summertime activities Californians are accustomed to, specifically beginning with Memorial Day events, Newsom related high doubt that gatherings as usual were not expected to be authorized.
“Mass gatherings are negligible at best until we get to herd immunity,” Newsom said. “Events that bring in hundreds or thousands of people are not likely, at least until our models are significantly changed.”
However, decisions about those events may be left to local officials and locally regulated. Newsom related that while the state will follow principles in order to maintain positive trends in defense against COVID-19, but that individual communities and counties will be empowered to make decisions locally in order to progress the return to productivity and community engagement.
“Because of the scale and scope of California,” Newsom said, “rural and urban, yes, we will be guided by local determinations based on common principles.”