Newsom Administration Unveils New Statewide Reopening Framework, Acting State Public Health Officer Issues Updated Order

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a sweeping new framework that imposes risk-based criteria on tightening and loosening allowable activities and expands the length of time between changes to assess how movement within communities affects the trajectory of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Governor’s Office, the state’s new framework builds upon lessons learned from the first six months of the pandemic, as well as new scientific understanding that has been collected, to create a new system for regulating movement and COVID-19 transmission. The framework includes:

  1. At least 21 days to expand activities beyond the initial tier to ensure California better limits the spread of the virus;
  2. Mandatory metrics – case rates and test positivity – to measure how widespread COVID-19 is in each county and guide what activities are allowed;
  3. A uniform state framework with four categories instead of 58 different sets of rules;
  4. A more nuanced way of allowing activities – instead of open versus closed, sectors can be partially opened and progressively expand operations as disease transmission decreases; and
  5. A new process for tightening back up again quickly if and when conditions worsen.

The state’s new framework utilizes recent data to determine where counties will fall into one of four colored tiers – Purple (Widespread), Red (Substantial), Orange (Moderate), and Yellow (Minimal) – based on how prevalent COVID-19 is in each jurisdiction and the extent of community spread. The color tiers will indicate how sectors can operate.

Notably, the state’s new framework relies on two leading health indicators: the number of cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive. Counties will additionally be required to demonstrate they are targeting resources and making the greatest efforts to prevent and fight COVID-19 in communities and with individual with the highest risk. Counties must remain in every tier but purple for a minimum of 21 days before being eligible to move into the next tier.

The framework will take effect August 31, and each Tuesday, the state will update each county’s data for the previous week and make corresponding adjustments to tiers. In order to move into a less restrictive tier, a county must meet that tier’s criteria for two straight weeks. Conversely, counties that fail to meet metrics for their current tier for two consecutive weeks must move to the next most restrictive tier. The plan also includes an “emergency brake” where the state can intervene more immediately for concerning factors such as a sharp increase in hospitalizations.

The purple (widespread) category of the new framework takes place of the CDPH County Data Monitoring List. Schools in the purple category are not permitted to reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive a waiver from their local health department for TK-6 grades. Schools are able to reopen for in-person instruction once their county has been in the red (substantial) category for at least two weeks.

To implement these changes, Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan issued a new statewide public health officer order available here. CDPH guidance on the new framework is available here.

Additional information from the Governor’s Office is available here. The state’s COVID-19 website also features a tool to determine the status of allowable activities available here.