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Gov. Newsom suggests he won't allow California communities to lift stay-at-home orders

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested Tuesday that he will not allow local officials to take any action that would loosen the statewide restrictions that he put in place more than a month ago.

“I imagine there'll be some examples of people just getting ahead of that collaborative spirit,” he said. “And we may have to dial a little bit of that back.”

The governor said his advisers are seeking to better organize the various conversations with county and city leaders over relaxing the restrictions, and said he would provide an update Wednesday on how current conditions in California compare to the requirements in his six-point blueprint.

In particular, Newsom promised an in-depth look at the challenges related to testing for the coronavirus and tracing potential cases of COVID-19 in communities across the state. He said the state is now averaging about 14,500 tests a day, fewer than his target of 25,000 a day by the end of April.

He cited administration statistics from the most recent 24-hour period - which showed a 3.3% increase in hospitalizations and a 3.8% increase in patients being treated in intensive care wards - as evidence that a significant shift toward reopening California businesses and community events is premature.

“If we pull back too quickly, those numbers will go through the roof. And I don't think any of the people, in their goodwill and the spirit in which they are wanting to loosen things up, want to see those numbers increase,” Newsom said.

His comments come as a few local agencies have been asking Newsom to consider loosening the restrictions.

San Luis Obispo County officials said they have bent the coronavirus curve and were beginning to craft a “phase two” that would allow some businesses to reopen.

“This is not to be a light switch” that returns the community to where it was in January, said county public health officer Penny Borenstein. Rather, officials are working to implement gradual changes.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson said that any changes would be guided by science and would need the approval of Newsom.

The county, which has reported 132 cases and one death, asked Newsom on Monday to grant it the “authority to implement a phased reopening of our local economy.”

Sutter County had a similar request.

In Los Angeles County, where more than 100 coronavirus deaths were recorded over the weekend, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said allowing stay-at-home rules to end too soon could worsen the situation.

“I know many of you are feeling frustrated or wondering when we'll be able to lift the Safer at Home order. But lifting the restrictions too soon could risk lives. My promise to the people of L.A. is that evidence and medicine will continue to guide us through this crisis,” the mayor said on Twitter.

Last week, the Newsom administration highlighted six key indicators for altering his stay-at-home mandate, including the ability to closely monitor and track potential cases, prevent infection of high-risk people, prepare hospitals to handle surges, develop therapies to meet demand, ensure schools, businesses and child-care facilities can support social distancing, and develop guidelines for when to ask Californians to stay home again if necessary.

Experts have said that lifting social distancing rules will be a long and deliberate process, with some businesses coming back before others. For example, restaurants might be able to reopen with strict social distancing, but big events would be harder to restart anytime soon.

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