Coronavirus in California: Guidelines Issued for Reopening Religious Institutions

This page will include daily live streams and other updates on the spread of coronavirus in California

Stay-at-home orders issued in mid-March are gradually being relaxed in the nation's most populous state.

Updates on the spread of COVID-19 and California's response can be found here. You also can view daily updates from the governor's office at noon.

Barbershops and Hair Salons Can Reopen With Limits

California is moving even farther with easing March stay-at-home restrictions that aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also damaged the economy. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced that counties now have the option of allowing barbershops and hair salons to accept business but they must follow social distancing and safety guidelines.

State Allows All Retailers to Reopen for In-Store Shopping

California took a major step Monday in its emergence from pandemic shutdown orders when its public health department announced the statewide reopening of in-store retail shopping. The retail guidance for in-person shopping that is already in place for certain counties now applies statewide, officials said in a statement

Guidelines Released for Religious Institutions

California's churches, mosques and synagogue may get the nod to reopen their doors sooner than expected under new state guidelines. On Monday, the public health department released a framework for counties deciding whether to allow churches to restart in-person services. The guidelines suggest masks should be worn, temperatures taken, and services shortened. Sharing prayer books or prayer rugs or using the collection plate are discouraged in the name of social distancing. Churches are the latest focus of efforts to restart California life since it was shuttered by a March stay-at-home order designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Most Counties Win Approval to Move Ahead

Most California counties have won state approval to move ahead with reopening restaurants and other businesses but a few are defiantly ignoring the rules. California has warned Tulare County that it might lose disaster relief funds after supervisors there voted Tuesday to allow barber shops, movie theaters and churches to reopen without state permission. Meanwhile, at least 33 of 58 counties have gotten the nod to permit some activities barred by the state's stay-at-home order, including dining in restaurants. On Wednesday, Ventura County became the first in Southern California to receive permission to accelerate reopening.

Overnight Proposed for Skilled Nursing Centers in LA County

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be asked to create the position of inspector general for oversight of skilled nursing facilities, which account for more than half the county's coronavirus death toll. Under the proposal, the inspector general would develop recommendations on strengthening oversight and improving long-term operations. As of Wednesday, 1,033 people in so-called institutional settings have died of COVID-19 and the vast majority were residents of skilled nursing facilities. That toll is 52% of all COVID-19 deaths in the county. In addition, nearly 6,800 residents have been infected. The motion will be up for a vote on May 26.

Hundreds of Pastors Plan to Defy State Order

More than 1,200 California pastors say they will defy the state's stay-at-home order to resume in-person church services on May 31. Gov. Gavin Newsom has gradually allowed some businesses to reopen. But churches are still banned. Wednesday, attorney Robert Tyler said more than 1,200 pastors had signed a letter pledging to resume services May 31. The letter comes one day after the U.S. Department of Justice sent Newsom a letter saying his order discriminates against churches. Representatives from Gov. Gavin Newsom's office and the California Department of Public Health did not respond to a request for comment.

Some Reopening Criteria Relaxed

California is relaxing some of its reopening criteria and that could mean most of the state may soon be offering services such as dining at restaurants. The criteria announced Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state. Twenty-four mainly rural counties already have won approval under the old standards. The changes eliminate requirements that a county have zero deaths and no more than 10 cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days. Now counties do not have to meet a threshold for deaths. They can have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents.

San Diego County Ramps Up for Reopening

California's second-largest county wants to run through the door opened by Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow faster reopening of the state's economy. San Diego County supervisors are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a detailed proposal for moving deeper into phase two of Newsom's four-stage reopening. Officials say if they win approval, some restaurants could open within days. The county also may ask the governor for permission to jump ahead to phase three with a pilot program to reopen hair salons and barbershops. Newsom on Monday eased some criteria for reopening more businesses, saying COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have declined.

Budget Cuts Are Ahead

In a budget reflecting the financial hit the state is already seeing from the coronavirus pandemic, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday proposed cutting $6.1 billion from a variety of programs in a budget he says prioritizes public education, public health and public safety. The forecast estimates unemployment to climb to nearly 25 percent and tax revenues will drop by about a quarter, he said.

Masks Are a Must in Los Angeles

Everyone must wear a mask when outside their homes in the city of Los Angeles. The new order is intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus as easing of other restrictions allows more people to return to work and recreation. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the requirement Wednesday evening, saying "every reasonable precaution" must be taken as steps are slowly being taken to reopen the economy. Easing of the "safer at home" orders issued by the city of LA and Los Angeles County began last week with reopening of some retail using curbside pickup, hiking trails and golf courses. Beaches reopened Wednesday, and there is now further opening of retail, manufacturing and logistics.

LA County's Beaches Reopen

Los Angeles County has reopened its beaches in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions that have closed most California public spaces and businesses for nearly two months. County beaches and many city-owned beaches along the 75 miles of coastline reopened Wednesday but with social distancing rules. The move comes as California tentatively eases some stay-at-home restrictions. Gov. Gavin Newsom last week permitted many retail businesses to reopen under restrictions. On Tuesday, he said some business offices can reopen. Meanwhile, seven rural Northern California counties have received state permission to reopen their economies more quickly.

What to Expect When Dine-In Options to Resume at Restaurants

California wants restaurants to screen guests for symptoms, have servers wear masks and keep diners at least 6 feet apart under guidance released Tuesday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Order Signed for Statewide Mail-In Ballots

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Friday that allows every registered voter in California to receive a mail-in ballot. The state is still working to open polling places in November, allowing for in-person voting with distancing measures and other health safety rules.

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California Partially Enters Phase 2 of Reopening

California retailers and manufacturers can reopen as soon as Friday under a new plan by Gov. Gavin Newsom aimed at easing the state's stay-at-home coronavirus order. His plan released Thursday allows some counties to go further by opening restaurants for dining, but only if the counties can meet strict thresholds. They include recording zero virus deaths over a 14-day period and just one case per 10,000 residents over the same time period. Retailers that do reopen are expected to take precautions such as only allowing curbside pickup, checking employees for virus symptoms and providing them with face masks.

Mask Are Part of Daily Life, But the Rules Vary

For many Californians venturing outside, donning a mask has become as common as putting on a cap or sunglasses. But requirements about face coverings vary, and enforcement rules are unclear. Masks have been ubiquitous at essential businesses like grocery stores and medical clinics since the early days of the pandemic. Under a revised state stay-at-home order that took effect Friday they are required for many employees and strongly recommended for customers at newly reopened businesses. Authorities hope people will be amenable to the rules, because they don't want to issue citations during a public health crisis.

Budget Shortfall Projected to Reach $54B

New estimates from California Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration predict a staggering budget shortfall of $54.3 billion because of the coronavirus. The projections released Thursday estimate a deficit nearly three-and-a-half times more than what the state had saved for an economic downturn. California has been under a mandatory stay-at-home order since March 19. The order closed nonessential businesses and prompted more than 4 million people to file for unemployment benefits. A year ago, as the economy hummed, California had a $21 billion surplus. Now, there will be dramatically less money to spend on education, social programs and other programs. Newsom plans to reveal a new budget proposal next week.

Newport Beach Reopening Plan Approved

California Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration has approved a plan to reopen Newport Beach less than a week after he shut down the Orange County coast to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The city said in a statement Wednesday that it would reopen its beaches for active recreational use only. The state has already approved similar plans for other cities including Huntington Beach. Newsom announced the Orange County beach closures on April 30 after a spring heat spell prompted thousands of people to head to the coast.

100 Employees Test Positive at Food Processing Plants

Health officials in central California say more than 100 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at two food-processing facilities in Tulare County. The Visalia Times Delta reports at least 107 employees at two Ruiz Foods facilities in Dinuba and Tulare have tested positive for the virus. The frozen Mexican food company, known for its El Monterey brand, last week reported 43 positive cases between the two facilities. That prompted officials to stop production lines at the Dinuba facility and increase testing of its employees. The company says it has implemented safety measures at its Tulare facility.

Court Denies Bid to Block Immigrant Aid Plan

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a bid to block the state's first-in-the-nation plan to give money to immigrants living in the country illegally who are hurt by the coronavirus. It was the second time in two days that judges refused to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom's $75 million plan to aid an estimated 150,000 unemployed adults who were left out of the stimulus package approved by Congress because of their immigration status. The program offers each adult $500 to be distributed through nonprofit groups in an effort to protect recipients from providing personal information that might cost them other benefits or increase their danger of being deported.

California Moves Toward Phase 2 of Reopening Plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will gradually allow certain business to reopen as soon as Friday, as the state sees hopeful signs in data tracking the spread of the coronavirus. The plan outlined Monday includes a range of retailers that would be permitted to reopen, including clothing, sporting goods and flower shops. However there would be restrictions, such as curbside pickups. It did not include dine-in eating at restaurants and reopening of offices. Newsom says a key consideration for loosening stay-at-home orders is the ability for health authorities to conduct widespread testing and establish a system to determine if someone who is infected might have spread the virus to someone else.

Northern California Moves Forward With Reopening Plans

Businesses in two more Northern California counties reopened Monday, with customers cautiously sipping coffee in a restaurant with masks dangling from their necks in silent defiance of the governor's statewide stay-at-home order. Yuba and Sutter counties followed last week's lead of rural Modoc County amid pressure to restart California's economy, even as hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue.

$1M Donated to Santa Cruz Hospital

An anonymous donor has gifted their local hospital $1 million, designating the funds to go entirely to the staff, from floor cleaners to nurses. This means $800 bonuses this month for staff at Dignity Health Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California. Nursing supervisor Amy Loudon says she's amazed at the generosity of a stranger, and especially appreciative it's being shared with everyone on their team, working throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Students Sue Over Online Classes

Students at more than 25 universities are filing lawsuits demanding tuition refunds from their schools after finding that the online classes they're being offered don't match up to the classroom experience. The class-action lawsuits have been filed against prestigious private schools and large public universities alike. The suits reflect students' growing frustration with online classes that schools scrambled to create as the coronavirus forced campuses across the nation to close last month. Colleges, though, reject the idea that refunds are in order. They insist that, after being forced to close by their states, they are still offering students a quality education.

Lawmakers to Return to Capitol

Some California lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol after more than a month away. They will be restarting a legislative session that was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic - the first sustained unscheduled work stoppage in 158 years. Lawmakers will focus on softening the economic fallout from the pandemic. But it won't be business as usual for California's full-time Legislature. They will be limited to having just one staff person with them, and nurses will check their temperatures at the door, among other precautions. Some lawmakers will be staying home for fear of contracting or spreading the disease.

California Considers Early School Start

California's governor said the new school year could begin as early as late July with modifications. Gov. Newsom made the announcement at a Tuesday briefing. Refresh this page for updates. The early start would be used to make up for time lost during the state's stay-home order.

White House Reopening Guidelines Leave Room for Interpretation

For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.

As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. The criteria has been criticized by some for being vague, creating the opportunity for any governor to argue the numbers are favorable enough to start reopening.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

A Strategy for Reopening Businesses

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering a strategy for reopening business in a state divided between rural areas with small numbers of coronarivus cases and urban areas struggling with still-rising death tolls. Newsom on Tuesday plans to outline what it will take to ease his stay-at-home order that closed most businesses. Health officials say the efforts have helped flatten the curve of virus outbreaks but they also caused economic upheaval. Six rural counties have asked the governor to carefully ease business restrictions while six San Francisco Bay Area counties on Monday said they'll extend their local restrictions through May. Newsom previously outlined six key indicators the state will examine when considering when to lift restrictions, among them the availability of sufficient coronavirus testing, ensuring protections for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and homeless, ensuring adequate hospital capacity, the development of therapeutics or a vaccine and having procedures in place to ensure health orders can be quickly imposed again if cases surge.

Beach Days Appear Numbered

Stretches of Orange County’s beaches could be off-limits the next few weekends after more than 100,000 people flocked to Huntington and Newport beaches from Friday through Sunday. It's was a scene that prompted a scolding from California’s governor and is making for tough decisions ahead. After what they saw over the weekend, Newport Beach city officials will decide Tuesday whether to close their city beaches for the next three weekends.

Deadly Spread at Nursing Homes

The coronavirus continues to take a deadly toll among residents of California nursing homes, with some facilities being particularly hard hit. In Tulare County, there have been 20 deaths among residents of Redwood Springs Healthcare in Visalia as of Friday. The Los Angeles Times reports 18 deaths among residents of Cedar Mountain Post Acute Rehabilitation in San Bernardino County. Help has been brought in to some facilities. Southern California News Group reports medical teams from the California National Guard were sent to four Los Angeles-area nursing homes, and LA County public health says it is increasing support for nursing homes with help from the CDC and the state.

Political Twist

The coronavirus pandemic is bringing with it a strange political twist: California Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Donald Trump are getting along. The liberal Democratic leader of a state that considers itself the headquarters of the Resistance has taken to singing Trump's praises, and the normally combative Republican president is returning the favor. It may prove savvy politics as Newsom works to ensure California's 40 million residents get what they need to weather the pandemic. And it could be a political boon for Trump, who can point to Newsom as evidence of bipartisan collaboration amid the crisis.

California’s Death Toll

Gov. Gavin Newsom says 115 deaths were reported Wednesday in California, marking the deadliest day in the nation’s most populous state. He said the death toll is evidence that stay-at-home orders must remain in place. Hospitalizations are down, Newsom said, adding that residents should continue to stay home and practicing distancing during the warm weekend ahead.

Some Scheduled Surgeries Can Resume

Gov. Gavin Newsom says California hospitals will resume scheduled surgeries. He called it the first significant change to the state's stay-at-home order that has been in place for more than a month. The change covers surgeries that are not emergencies. Newsom said examples include procedures for tumors, heart valves and chronic disease. The change does not include purely cosmetic surgeries. He said state officials will be monitoring hospitals closely to make sure they are not overwhelmed. If there is a surge of coronavirus cases, the scheduled surgery ban could be put back in place.

Nursing Home Outbreaks

Some 1,740 patients and 1,290 staff members at nursing homes up and down California have been infected with coronavirus, according to data released by the state Department of Public Health. Of the 1,224 skilled nursing facilities in California, 258 have reported having one or more COVID-19 case by either a resident or a health care worker, according to the data.

Volunteer Opportunities

In his Tuesday update, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked that healthy Californians looking to help in the battle against coronavirus visit the Californian For All site. The site connects residents with volunteer opportunities that are high priority.

Protests at the Capitol

Hundreds of protesters lobbying to ease Gov. Gavin Newsom's tight stay-at-home orders rallied around the California Capitol as Newsom outlined how he has approved some counties' gradual relaxing of some restrictions aimed at slowing spread of the coronavirus. Newsom on Monday said he approved a plan by Ventura County to reopen golf courses and parks. That prompted the top health official in neighboring Los Angeles County to implore residents not to flood those locations as warmer temperatures arrive this week. Newsom said he'll give more details about a plan to relax rules throughout the state on Wednesday.

Lawmakers Want More Details

California Assembly members want more details from Gov. Gavin Newsom about how he is spending money to fight the coronavirus. Lawmakers thanked Newsom on Monday for his leadership during an unprecedented health emergency but said the legislature should now return to exercising more oversight over the state's spending. Assembly members from both parties wanted more details on a $1 billion contract to buy 200 million masks from a Chinese company. State officials said revealing details of the contract right now would "jeopardize" the deal. They also defended Newsom spending money on social safety net programs while legislators said they wanted more say.

Study: Illness May Be Far More Widespread Than Thought

A new study estimates that 320,000 adults in Los Angeles County may have been infected with coronavirus. That's according to preliminary results of a study that suggests the illness is far more widespread than current testing shows and the death rate is much lower. The study conducted by the county and the University of Southern California estimated that approximately 4.1% of the county's adult population of 8 million has antibodies to the virus. The study shows more people than were known have been silent carriers of the virus that has killed more than 1,200 people in California.

LA Prepares for Furloughs

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says thousands of city workers must take 26 furlough days, or the equivalent of a 10 percent pay cut, over the next fiscal year as the city deals with the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. Garcetti said at his annual State of the City address Sunday that tax revenues will come in far short of projections and warned of an economic blow far worse than the 2008 recession. The news provided a glimpse of what cities across California can expect as the state copes with the loss of nearly 100,000 jobs last month because of the coronavirus outbreak.

First Prison Inmate Dies From COVID-19

California has reported the first prison inmate death from COVID-19 as the state steps up efforts to prevent outbreaks among vulnerable populations, including people living in nursing homes, on the streets or in homeless shelters. Corrections officials said Sunday the inmate died at a hospital after contracting the coronavirus at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County. No further details were released. As of Sunday, the state had recorded more than 31,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,175 deaths, according to John Hopkins University. Los Angeles County has 600 - more than half the statewide deaths.

Comic-Con is Called Off

For the first time in 50 years, San Diego Comic-Con International has been canceled due to the impact and restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced Friday.

Governor Signs Order on Paid Sick Leave

California's governor has signed an order granting two weeks of paid sick leave to farm workers, delivery drivers, grocery store and fast-food employees so they won't feel pressured to keep working while infected with the coronavirus. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that the financial help is critical for workers he says are making sure Californians have food on their tables. Newsom said at least 51 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 at a Safeway warehouse in the Central Valley, and one had died. 

Strange Days of Summer Ahead

Most beaches and virtually every other destination in California are closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Though the outlook has improved, Gov. Gavin Newsom has written off the possibility of a typical summer. It could be one where you travel on the internet, have your temperature checked before being seated in a half-empty restaurant and worry about tan lines from your face mask.

Shutdown Order Lawsuits

California's top law enforcement official says that what would normally be broad constitutional protections for freedoms of assembly, religion or buying guns have their limits when they endanger others during the coronavirus pandemic. The state has been sued over all three shutdown orders as government officials pick winners and losers in which businesses and activities can continue and which must be curtailed to contain spread of the virus. But Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in an interview Thursday that officials have broad authority to do what they think is necessary to slow the spread, even if that trumps normal fundamental freedoms.

Bleak Unemployment Outlook

California lost nearly 100,000 jobs in March, signaling a sudden end to a record 10-year streak of job growth because of a coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered nonessential businesses and sent more than 2.7 million residents to the unemployment office. The unemployment rate in the nation's most populous state is now 5.3%, a 1.4 percentage point increase that is the largest rate increase on record since 1976, when state officials began using the current formula for tracking job losses.

Hotels for Healthcare Workers

A lodging program for caregivers and other healthcare workers was announced Thursday. The state launched a website to help workers who have been exposed to the coronavirus or tested positive for COVID-19 find hotel rooms.

How Long Until Coronavirus Will Cause Peak Hospital Use Across the Country

This interactive chart uses model data provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to predict how the coronavirus will affect health care resources in different states. The maximum hospital bed use in some states, such as New York, has already passed while in others it is weeks away. Most states have enough general hospital and ICU beds to meet demand, according to additional data from The Associated Press.

Sources: State hospital bed capacity data from the Associated Press. Model data provided by IHME. Note: The model assumes full social distancing through May 2020.
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

National Guard Flying Ventilators to Other States

The California National Guard is flying ventilators to New York, New Jersey and Illinois as part of an effort to help other states manage a crush or coronavirus hospitalizations. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the three states are getting some of California's ventilators a day after he announced the state would lend 500 to states in need. A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the rest of the state's machines will go to Maryland, Delaware, Nevada and the District of Columbia. The list of states is slightly different than the states Vice President Mike Pence listed Monday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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