Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 03:21:43 +0200 (METDST)

Los Angeles, May 5, 2020 (AFP) - Some retailers in California, including bookstores, flower shops and clothing stores, will be allowed to reopen for business at the end of the week, the state's governor announced on Monday.   "Millions of Californians answered the call to stay home and thanks to them, we are in a position to begin moving into our next stage of modifying our stay at home order," Governor Gavin Newsom said. "But make no mistake -- this virus isn't gone. It's still dangerous and poses a significant public health risk."

His announcement came following protests across the state last week to demand the lifting of restrictions that have kept the majority of Californians at home and crippled the state's economy, one of the largest in the world.   Under the second phase of the reopening process outlined by the governor, some retail stores can open on Friday for pickup only, while manufacturing and logistics businesses will also be able to get back to work.

Newsom said other sectors that fall into this second phase, such as offices and dine-in restaurants, will open at a later date.   The Democratic governor said that some counties can move quickly through Stage 2, but they must first prove that they meet the state's readiness criteria for hospital beds, testing kits and contact tracing.

Other counties in the Bay Area, which were the first in the country to order lockdowns and which have experienced a high rate of infection, will likely start lifting restrictions at a later date, Newsom said.   He said Stage 3 of lifting restrictions would begin in months and include the reopening of hair salons, nail bars, gyms and sports competitions without fans.

The final stage would amount to the lifting of all restrictions and allow for the opening of movie theatres and sporting events.   That stage, however, is not expected before a vaccine is discovered and made widely available.   California as of Monday had recorded nearly 55,000 cases of COVID-19 and 2,211 deaths.   Los Angeles County alone has recorded nearly 26,000 cases and 1,229 deaths.
Date: Sun, 3 May 2020 20:11:39 +0200 (METDST)

New York, May 3, 2020 (AFP) - Dozens of New Yorkers were fined for violating coronavirus social distancing guidelines as they flocked to the city's beaches and parks to enjoy balmy weekend weather, police said Sunday.   NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters that officers had issued 51 summonses on Saturday, mostly for social distance violations, as temperatures in America's COVID-19 epicentre registered upwards of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).

Residents of the Big Apple, which has been shut down since mid-March, are allowed outside to exercise providing they maintain six-feet (two meters) of distance and wear a mask when around others.   New Yorkers can be fined up to $1000 for violating the orders, which many did as they descended on popular spots like Manhattan's Central Park and Rockaway Beach in Queens following a largely rainy week.   Shea said tickets were issued to 43 people in parks and eight others elsewhere as New York leaders warned residents not to spark a second wave of infections.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he appreciated residents were bored but that they should not take "false comfort" from falling COVID-19 cases or from seeing other states reopen.   He insisted that the outbreak -- which has killed almost 20,000 people state-wide -- was far from over.   "How people cannot wear masks is disrespectful. It's disrespectful to the nurses, the doctors, the people who have been frontline workers, the transit workers.   "You wear the mask not for yourself -- you wear the mask for me," he added.

Cuomo reported 280 new deaths from COVID-19 in New York state in the last 24 hours, down from 289 the day before.   More than 700 New Yorkers were dying daily at the peak of the outbreak last Month.   Cuomo announced that new cases and intubations continued to fall.
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 2020 23:58:20 +0200 (METDST)

Los Angeles, April 30, 2020 (AFP) - Beaches in some parts of southern California will be shut down from Friday, the state's governor announced, to avoid a repeat of the huge crowds that flocked there last weekend.   "We're going to do a hard close ... just in the Orange County area," Gavin Newsom said.   "Specific issues on some of those beaches have raised alarm bells," he added, referring to the thousands of people who packed beaches in the county -- notably Newport Beach and Huntington Beach -- last weekend amid a heatwave.

Newsom said his decision was guided by concerns on protecting public health and urged Californians to continue heeding the stay-at-home order imposed in March to stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.   He acknowledged that the beach closures may not sit well with some local officials and residents who are finding it increasingly difficult to stay indoors, but insisted it was necessary to save lives.   Several California coastal towns have allowed beaches to remain open for local residents despite the statewide lockdown order.   But Newsom insisted that the virus "doesn't take the weekend off" or "go home because it's a beautiful sunny day around coasts."

The city council in Newport Beach on Tuesday rejected a proposal to shut down beaches in the area for the next three weekends and some nearby towns have allowed people on beaches at certain hours and for exercise.   Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner on Thursday qualified Newsom's decision as "overreaction" and unwise.   "Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits," Wagner said. "Moreover, Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far."

Local law enforcement officials have also insisted that pictures of beachgoers last weekend did not reflect the reality.   "What we observed from land and by air was the vast majority of beachgoers practicing social distancing," the Newport Beach police and fire chiefs said in a statement. "There were, in places, some clusters of people that were not social distancing.   "Throughout the day, our police officers and lifeguards patrolled the entire beach area to educate and remind those individuals of the necessity of physical distancing."   California has registered nearly 49,000 cases of COVID-19 so far with almost 2,000 deaths, a fatality rate deemed modest given it is the most populous state in the country.
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2020 01:43:24 +0200 (METDST)

Los Angeles, April 27, 2020 (AFP) - Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday admonished Californians who flocked to beaches at the weekend, warning that their behaviour could reverse progress made in combating the coronavirus pandemic.   "We can't see images like we saw, particularly on Saturday, in Newport Beach and elsewhere," Newsom said, referring to photos showing thousands of people packing several beaches in southern California amid a heatwave.   "The virus doesn't take the weekend off because it's a beautiful sunny day around our coasts," he added.

The images from Newport Beach and neighbouring Huntington Beach have prompted a backlash, with many comparing them to photos in April of beachgoers in Florida that sparked the #FloridaMorons hashtag.   Newsom said that while the most populous state in the country is weeks away from starting to gradually lift stay-at-home orders, the beach scenes from the weekend could push back that goal.   "The only thing that will set us back is our behaviour," he said.   "The only thing that can stop that is more images like we saw this weekend."   Beaches in California have been closed to the public because of the pandemic, but a handful of cities have moved to allow visitors while enforcing restrictions, including for parking and social distancing.

The western state has registered nearly 45,000 cases of COVID-19 so far with 1,753 deaths, a fatality rate deemed modest considering the size of the state.   Newsom said he plans to work with local officials to reassess enforcement measures, including from the police to avoid a repeat of the weekend beach scenes.   The city council in Newport Beach said on Monday it was considering closing the beaches for the next three weeks or blocking roads to avoid large crowds.
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 2020 21:30:28 +0200 (METDST)

New York, April 26, 2020 (AFP) - New York, which has ground to a halt to stop the coronavirus pandemic, may start reopening manufacturing and construction after May 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.   Cuomo, however, said that any easing of measures would take place first in the north of the state and not in the New York City metropolitan region, by far the hardest-hit area in the United States.

"The regions that would be more likely able to open sooner would be the upstate regions," Cuomo told reporters. "Downstate New York is going to be more complicated."   He said that any potential reopening of New York City, the country's most populous city, could need to be coordinated with authorities in the adjacent states of New Jersey and Connecticut.   A lockdown of New York ordered by Cuomo is set to expire on May 15. Under a plan for reopening, the first sectors would be construction and manufacturing.

Cuomo said the state was operating with a caveat -- "don't do anything that's going to bring people in from all across the board."   Cuomo has called for a two-week delay before the next stage of reopenings, which would include most offices, to ensure that the first phase does not trigger a resurgence of the virus.   The governor stressed that any final decision would be conditioned on a downturn in COVID-19 hospitalizations between now and May 15.

The state on Sunday reported 367 fatalities in the previous 24 hours, the lowest number since March 30 when 332 people died.   COVID-19 has now killed 16,966 people in New York state, accounting for around a third of the deaths in the United States.

To reopen, businesses will need to present New York authorities with plans that show they are ensuring sanitation to reduce the risk of virus transmission.   Cuomo said that no full-scale return to normal could come until the reopening of schools, which would allow parents to work outside of home.   New York state has not made a decision on reopening the education system, although Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he considers the rest of the school year cancelled in the city.   Cuomo said that some school districts were studying whether to hold summer sessions to make up for lost time.
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