(The Center Square) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state has made significant progress in recent weeks in increasing COVID-19 testing and reducing the number of individuals hospitalized for the respiratory disease.
Over the past 14 days, the state has seen a 7.5 percent decline in hospitalizations and an 8.7 decline in the number of ICU patients.
"We are seeing a significant, steady rate of decline over a long period of time in the number of people hospitalized or in our ICUs," Newsom said.
At the same time, the state has distributed tens of millions of masks and other personal protective equipment and increased testing capacity to the point where 57,000 were conducted in the past 24 hours.
As a result of these successes, 53 of the state's 58 counties would be eligible to move into stage 2 of the governor's reopening plan; 24 counties had already qualified. When asked which five counties would not qualify, Newsom said he'd provide that information later.
Under stage 2, retail businesses are able to gradually reopen with curbside sales only, and child care, manufacturing and logistics businesses also are able to reopen. Later in phase 2, retail restrictions will be relaxed, schools will be adapted and able to reopen, as well as offices and limited hospitality and personal services.
But stage 2 currently does not allow churches to reopen to in-person service. Many business leaders and church groups have been critical of Newsom's stay-at-home restrictions. Newsom said the state was a few weeks away from reopening churches.
Newsom noted that not all counties that are eligible to move to stage 2 will do so right away. That will be up to local officials themselves, he said.
"They can go at their own pace," he said.
Since Newsom instituted stay-at-home restrictions across the state in March, effectively closing businesses he deemed non-essential, about 4.5 million California workers have filed for unemployment benefits.