As social distancing measures begin to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday began to paint a picture of what life will probably be like in the state when officials determine they can begin to reopen businesses, schools, and other venues to the public.
Whenever the stay-at-home orders are lifted, it won't be business as usual, the governor said at his daily press briefing.
"Normal it will not be, at least until we have herd immunity and we have a vaccine," Newsom said.
Reopening will only happen as new cases of the disease decline, Newsom said, and businesses and institutions show they can continue to curb the spread of the virus as they reopen. That means hospitals will have to remain prepared for a surge of patients, and businesses, schools, and childcare facilities will need to keep up physical distancing and other precautions.
Here are some of the ways life will be a lot different, even after parts of the state open back up:
Dining out will look a lot different
When restaurants are allowed to reopen, they won't look the same as they did before the pandemic.
"You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, dinner where the menu is disposable, where ... half the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment," Newsom said. "These are likely scenarios."
Face masks will be more common in public
State health officer Sonia Angell said as people begin to spend more time in public, it will become "even more important" to wear a mask or another kind of face covering as an added precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Face coverings are not a replacement for physical distancing, but they can add protection," Angell said.
Concerts or conferences still won't be possible for a while
Even though restaurants and other businesses will likely be able to reopen when stay-at-home orders are lifted, it won't be safe for people to congregate at large events like conferences and concerts until officials can determine that a significant portion of the population is immune to COVID-19 and a vaccine is available, Newsom said.
"The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity," Newsom said. "Large-scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of strangers all together across every conceivable difference — health and otherwise — is not in the cards based upon our current guidelines and current expectations."
Schools may have to rearrange their desks
Classrooms will be reconfigured to help keep up physical distancing within schools when they reopen.
“We need to do it in a safe way so those kids are not going to school, getting infected, and then coming home and infecting grandma or grandpa,” Newsom said.
In addition, Newsom said officials were considering staggering start times as well as making changes to cafeterias and locker rooms.
"Those are the kinds of things the kinds of conversations we’re all going to be having over the course of the next number of weeks,” he said.
Sidewalks and playgrounds will be deep-cleaned regularly
As more people leave their homes, Newsom said businesses, schools, parks, playgrounds, and even sidewalks will need to be regularly sanitized to prevent infection.
The state is planning for "massive deep cleaning, lots of sanitation" of public places, he said.
The governor said more information on how the state will reopen will be available in the coming weeks. Among the specific criteria necessary for modifying or lifting stay-at-home orders will be the ability to test for the virus, conduct contact tracing, and support people who are infected or exposed to COVID-19 and prevent infection in those who are at risk for more severe illness.
In closing, Newsom reiterated that before Californians can start to see parts of the state reopen, they will need to keep staying home and practicing social distancing when out for essential needs.
"It’s put us as a state in a position where we can lay out this road map, but again, it is all conditioned on us continuing to stay the course on the current road," he said.