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California Has A New 4-Tier, Color-Coded Reopening Framework

This image, generated on August 28, 2020, shows which counties are in which tiers of California's new color-coded reopening framework, which goes into effect on on August 31, 2020. State of California via Facebook screengrab
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Governor Gavin Newsom today debuted a new four-tier, color-coded reopening blueprint that goes into effect August 31 and will apply across the entire state of California. That means on Monday, some counties could be moved into a less restrictive tier, allowing some businesses to reopen, while other counties could be moved into a more restrictive tier, requiring some businesses to institute new safety precautions.

Newsom hopes this simplified framework will make it easier for California residents to understand which businesses are open in their county and what safety precautions these businesses must take. (If you were confused by the previous plan — with its tiers and stages and tiers within stages — join the club.) When you go to California's COVID-19 website, you'll find a new section, Blueprint for a Safer Economy, where you can enter your zip code and select the type of business (for example, "day camps," "places of worship," "nail salons," "restaurants," etc.) to see its opening statues.

An overview of California's new four-tier, color-coded reopening framework, which goes into effect on August 31, 2020. (State of California via Facebook screengrab)

The new color-coded framework is divided into Widespread, Substantial, Moderate and Minimal tiers, based on COVID-19 case rates and positivity rates. The Widespread (purple) tier is the most restrictive while the Minimal (yellow) tier has the least stringent restrictions.

  • Widespread - Purple
  • Substantial - Red
  • Moderate - Orange
  • Minimal - Yellow
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There's no green tier because, as Newsom said, "We don't believe that there is a green light, which says go back to the way things were or back to the pre-pandemic mindset."
Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties are all in the purple (widespread) tier.

That means that as of August 31, 2020, according to the website, "Counties in the Widespread (purple) tier may open some businesses and activities with modifications, including all retail, shopping centers at maximum 25% capacity, and hair salons and barbershops indoors."

Yes, you read that right. On Monday, hair salons can reopen and you can go get those shaggy locks cut.

A man gets a haircut. (Michael DeMoya)

Santa Barbara and San Diego are in the slightly less restrictive red (substantial) tier.

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A quick scan of the website shows only two California counties — Modoc, near the border with Oregon, and Tuolumne, in the central part of the state — in the yellow tier.

Counties can still institute restrictions that are more stringent than the state has required, but county restrictions can't be less stringent.

With version 2.0 of the state's reopening, officials are taking a much slower and more cautious approach than they did the first time around.

If a county is assigned a tier today, it will remain in that tier for at least three weeks.

"This process is why we say statewide and stringent but we also say slow, in terms of our ability to move into these different tiers," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California's Health and Human Services agency, at the press conference.

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Although COVID-19 case rates are going down, they're still higher than they were back in June, Dr. Ghaly noted.

"One thing we've learned from the previous reopening experience is making sure that we really hold strongly to these buffers, in terms of criteria and data and holding that criteria and data for an extended period of time."

At today's briefing, Newsom and Ghaly both emphasized: COVID-19 will be with us for a long time and we can't let down our guard.

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