Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet again surprised the state with another reopening plan, rounding out the last six months with the fourth—and hopefully, final—plan.
The new four-tiered system is color coded with purple, red, orange, and yellow, corresponding to the status of COVID-19 as widespread, substantial, moderate, or minimal, respectively. The tiers are determined by the percent of positive tests and new daily cases per 100,000 people, and dictate which businesses can be open and to what extent. The “widespread” tier requires most non-essential indoor operations be closed, while the “minimal” tier allows most businesses to open with certain modifications.
This new system has clearly strayed from the original goal of lockdowns to “flatten the curve” and prevent hospitals from overflowing, and the science behind it is superficial at best. If you already find yourself with a lot of questions, rest assured that you are not alone.
For example, how will businesses know what color code their city or county is? How will they know at which tier and at what capacity they are allowed to open? Will it be updated daily, and if so, won’t business owners be perpetually uncertain of whether they will be able to open tomorrow? How does this plan integrate with the previous ones? For example, the state watchlist plan just allowed San Diego hairdressers and barbers to open indoors—will they be allowed to remain open regardless of color code, or will they now be required to follow two rule books at once? And, importantly, when does it end?
According to Gov. Newson, “We don’t put up green because we don’t believe that there’s a green light that says just go back to the way things were or back to the pre-pandemic mindset.” Well, what about the businesses that don’t fit into the “most businesses” category allowed in the yellow tier? There isn’t an end in sight for them. And when will businesses be allowed to resume full functionality instead of working with “modifications?”
The answer to all of these questions is that we don’t know—and neither do businesses. The governor has once again yanked a system that was finally allowing counties like San Diego to reopen more fully and replaced it with a new and far more opaque one. He is piling more uncertainty and fear onto already struggling businesses with no real reason or evidence, and depriving them even of a light at the end of the tunnel that offers normalcy.
All signs suggest that this is the most recent of the long list of times that Gov. Newsom has wrest power from local leaders for his own gain. None of his COVID-19 strategies have been effective, but instead of allowing local leaders to take the reins, he continues to exercise undemocratic power and impose his own unsupported systems on the whole state. Unfortunately, it seems that this attempt—like the previous ones—is bound only to make matters worse.