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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s abrupt move to lift stay-at-home orders — allowing outdoor dining and other business activities to resume — represents a gamble that California can avoid another deadly coronavirus surge in the coming months despite a slow, frustrating rollout of the vaccine and the looming threat of more contagious strains of the virus taking hold across the state.

Lifting the order should be a boost to some restaurant owners and other merchants whose businesses have been battered by cycles of closure since the pandemic began and who placed enormous pressure on the governor to ease restrictions as campaigns gather signatures to recall him from office.

But experts said it would not take a lot for the situation to spiral out of control again.

“Everything hinges on the behaviors we adopt. If we adopt behaviors where everyone is masking, everyone is keeping to distancing, that all of the rules the governor has in place are enforced, I think there’s a possibility for us to resume some of these activities,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said. “It’s not an outrageous idea. This is not an outrageous policy.”

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, a frequent vocal critic of the state’s pandemic response and of Newsom, said rescinding the stay-at-home order was “a step in the right direction, but I’ve also learned during the course of COVID that this governor is very erratic. Who knows what will get him to change his mind again?”

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