California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state will begin stage two of resuming economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes reopening public spaces and lower-risk businesses with adaptations starting May 8, in accordance with state guidelines released May 7.
Such lower-risk workplaces include bookstores, florists, clothing stores and sporting goods stores, according to a press release from Newsom’s office. Other businesses, such as dine-in restaurants and offices, will be included later in stage two, and the reopening of schools remains a topic of discussion.
“As we move into the next stage of reopening, we will do so with updated guidance to help qualifying businesses make modifications needed to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure to customers and workers,” Newsom said in the press release. “Californians should prepare now for that second stage of reopening.”
Newsom also signed an executive order Monday directing the state public health officer to establish criteria for local health officers who want to enact less restrictive public health measures.
California is currently on track to stabilize hospitalization numbers and to provide enough testing and personal protective equipment, according to the press release. Counties must be able to demonstrate sufficient public health measures and protection of vulnerable populations in order to move quickly through stage two.
Berkeley and the greater Bay Area remain under a mandatory shelter-in-place order until the end of May. While Newsom’s announcement may be a relief for small businesses, some Berkeley business owners are not sure reopening is in sight.
“For Newsom to reopen the state is great, and it should go slowly and we should be careful,” said Ann Leyhe, co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore in Berkeley. “But, since we’re in a slightly different situation here in the Bay Area, we’ll be taking it slowly until we get word from our local people.”
Leyhe said Mrs. Dalloway’s is continuing to complete online orders with deliveries. She added that she hopes curbside deliveries — already in place for food providers — will begin in the Bay Area for the business types included in Newsom’s recent announcement.
Mel Willis, owner of Indigo Vintage Cooperative in Berkeley, said Indigo’s reopening would mean local curbside pickups and, potentially, private, no-contact shopping appointments, depending on how comfortable employees feel.
“As a small business owner, I’m in a unique position because not only is it my business, I have about 30 local vendors involved, and their income is kind of on the line,” Willis said. “Taking the steps to get there is good, but I will not be opening to full capacity anytime soon.”
Businesses and organizations in the Telegraph Business Improvement District, or TBID, are relying on students returning to campus this fall in order to recover from economic losses, according to Alex Knox, executive director of TBID.
Knox added that even if businesses are able to reopen later this spring or in early summer, some may not have the financial capacity to remain open.
“This is a critical period now where businesses are either getting loans and grants, or they’re not getting them,” Knox said. “They are looking at more rent payments coming up in this month and next month, and are weighing decisions for closing permanently or if they have the resources to reopen. … It will become more clear what the outcomes are as we get closer to the summer.”