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COVID-19 ‘Transition’ Plan for California Coming Today. What to Expect.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising to lay out a detailed plan Tuesday for lifting coronavirus restrictions in California. He said residents can expect an “incremental release of the stay-at-home orders” that have been in effect statewide since March 19.

Newsom used his live-streamed COVID-19 update on Monday to tease the plan’s release.

He said he looks forward to “talking about some of our new strategies and new information around transitioning and getting this economy and getting this state back on its feet.”

Specific Rollback Dates Unlikely

Newsom didn’t share any details of his plan for reopening and observers say it’s unlikely he will provide a specific date for any rollbacks.

But Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggested Newsom could start with opening public spaces. Shelter-at-home orders could be lifted next, he said.

Rules could also be eased based on location or outbreak intensity. Klausner noted 90% of California’s cases are in 14 mostly urban counties. He said it would make sense to start lifting restrictions in rural places and see how it goes over periods of about two weeks.

That could be followed by reopening restaurants that don’t have intense crowding, said Klausner.

Newsom Had Recently Forecast Mid-May for Peak Impact

Even as little as a week ago, it seemed unlikely Newsom would be talking so soon about a plan for reopening the state. At that time, the governor was sticking to a forecast that the peak of California’s COVID-19 outbreak would come in mid-May.

But Newsom said Monday the number of people hospitalized increased only modestly during the weekend, continuing an encouraging trend. In Los Angeles County, where 40% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths and overall cases are  occurring, officials said Monday the number of new cases was the lowest in weeks.

A closely-watched forecasting model from the University of Washington has indicated the peak impact of COVID-19 on the state’s medical facilities would come by April 17

“We’ve been fortunate in California that … while massive devastation was predicted that was not what was observed and our health systems have been adequate to manage the hospitalizations that we have seen,” Klausner said.

Medical Capacity Available Should Surge Arise

On Friday, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, said it’s possible hospitalizations won’t rise much more. And Newsom said the weekend numbers held relatively steady, with ICU hospitalizations rising 2.9% on Sunday to 1,178, leaving thousands of beds available should there be a surge of patients.

California has more than 24,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 750 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

While there is improving data overall, certain populations remain especially vulnerable. They include the homeless, inmates and those in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia.