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Yellow, Orange, Red and Purple: Color-Coded System Will Guide California Reopening

Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media

Statewide — On Aug. 28, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new framework for re-opening businesses in California counties shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state will move away from the previous “watch list” system and use a new four-tiered classification system to determine which counties can open.

At the Aug. 28 press conference, Gov. Newsom said, “We wanted to make adjustments based upon the input we received from county health officers, input we received from experts, our own experience here in the state of California, to adjust the frameworks from the old monitoring list to a more dynamic list that we hope is not only more dynamic, but is much more simple to understand. Stringent, though, nonetheless in terms of its application but statewide in terms of its consequence.”

The tiers are color-coded: yellow for minimal COVID-19 spread, orange for moderate spread, red for substantial spread, and purple for widespread COVID-19 transmission. Nearly all businesses in yellow counties are allowed to reopen indoor operations, as long as face-covering and physical distancing requirements are followed. In purple counties, nearly all businesses have to close or severely limit indoor operations.

According to the state COVID website, as of Aug. 30, the majority of counties in the state are widespread or purple.

Within the new system, the color of the county is determined by the number of new daily coronavirus cases and the testing positivity rate. Counties that are considered widespread or purple have more than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents or a higher than 8% positivity rate among those tested.

Most business in widespread counties are allowed to remain open as long as they are outdoor only, including restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship. Bars and schools must remain closed, and non-essential offices must operate remotely.

Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, released a statement responding to the state’s new COVID-19 reopening framework.

“Unfortunately, [Gov. Newsom] has also sent a long term signal to the business community that they will likely not be able to operate at a sustainable level until spring 2021 at the earliest. As the rest of the country begins on a path to economic recovery, we are gravely concerned that California will see a wave of permanent job loss, especially since the Legislature has not passed any policies that will help businesses adapt to this ‘new normal,’” the statement read.

According to the state website, COVID-19 data is reviewed weekly with tiers updated on Tuesdays. To move to a less restrictive tier, the county has to meet that tier’s requirements for two consecutive weeks. If a county’s new daily cases or testing positivity rate increases for two consecutive weeks, it will move to a more restrictive tier.

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