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Gov. Newsom announces new “Blueprint” to guide California’s reopening activities

August 28, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 


Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a new framework to guide California’s reopening activities, called “Blueprint for a Safer California.” Gov. Newsom stressed that the new framework and resulting modifications would be more stable and measured than the previous reopening process, calling them “statewide, simple, slow and stringent.”

The new framework establishes four “risk level” tiers, and the criteria in each tier will be uniform for all counties within the tier. How counties fall within the tiers will be determined by two primary metrics: case rates and test positivity rates. California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, M.D., explained that these metrics were chosen because they are the earliest indicators of how well a community is containing the spread of COVID-19.

The four tiers are labeled by risk level: widespread (purple), substantial (red), moderate (orange) and minimal (yellow). Counties are placed in a tier and regulated as follows:

Widespread: More than 7 new cases daily per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate over 8%

  • Most non-essential indoor business operations are closed
  • Current # of qualifying counties: 38 (87% of state’s population)

Substantial: 4-7 new cases per 100,000  and a positivity rate between 5-8%

  • Some non-essential indoor business operations are closed
  • Current # of qualifying counties: 9 (12% of population)

Moderate: 1-3.9 cases per 100,000  and a positivity rate between 2-4.9%

  • Some business operations are open with modifications
  • Current # of qualifying counties: 8 (1% of population)

Minimal: Less than 1 case per 100,000 and a positivity rate below 2%

  • Most business operations are open with modifications
  • Current # of qualifying counties: 3 (0.1% of population)

Weekly assessments to move counties between tiers begin September 8 and will occur every Tuesday. Counties must stay in a tier for 21 days before becoming eligible to move to the next tier. After 21 days, if they have met the metrics for the next tier for two straight weeks, they then can advance to the next tier. Counties can only move one tier at a time.

Individual counties can still make decisions to apply more stringent standards than the those called for by the state’s tiers. The state is also maintaining an “emergency brake” for factors like hospitalizations and ICU capacity. The specifics of how the “emergency brake” process will work were not detailed.

California also released a new search tool at covid19.ca.gov that details each county’s tier and shows the specific restrictions/modifications in place for each business/activity sector within that tier. Gov. Newsom also mentioned there would be additional metrics related to a county’s commitment to health equity. The health equity measures are still to be developed.

Additional detail on the process can be found on the California Department of Public Health website.

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