Gov. Gavin Newsom Outlines 4 Stage Plan to reopen California. Policy in Motion takes a look at the good, the bad, and the uncertain for life after COVID-19.

Today California Governor Gavin Newsom outlined a 4 Phase plan to reopen the state over the coming weeks and months. Here’s what life in the Golden State will be looking like:

  • Stage 1 – reflects where California is now, staying home and working on flattening the curve.
  • Stage 2 – involves lifting restrictions on some lower risk workplaces, such as retail, manufacturing and offices where telework is not possible. Will include the opening of more public spaces. Reopening child care centers will be a part of this second stage as well.
  • Stage 3 – will be “months, not weeks, away.” This stage will encompass personal care businesses like gyms, spas and salons, sports without live audiences, in-person religious services and other businesses where workers come in close contact with customers.
  • Stage 4 (final phase) – will see the end of the stay-at-home order with the reopening of the “highest risk parts of our economy” being reopened. That includes concerts, convention centers and sports with live crowds. Newsom said that stage would come only “once therapeutics have been developed.” Newsom also floated the idea of restarting school in late July or early August, saying that “the prospects of an earlier school year are warranted considering the prospect of neglecting our next generation.”

Life Beyond COVID-19

It goes without saying that the world is undergoing massive changes during this global pandemic — the good, the bad, and the uncertain — from record clean air levels to record unemployment levels, and record levels of uncertainty about what “life after COVID-19” will look like.

The Good – Earth Gets a Vacation

Traffic accidents and crash-related injuries and deaths were reduced by half during the first three weeks of California’s shelter-in-place order, which began March 20. The reductions save the state an estimated $40 million per day — about $1 billion over the time period — according to an updated special report released this week from the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis. In parallel with the more than 50 percent reduction in traffic collisions and related injuries and deaths came a 55 percent reduction in traffic on some highways. There was also a 40-50 percent decrease in trauma-injuries for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists reported among Sacramento-area hospitals. Altogether, the reduction amounts to about 15,000 fewer collisions per month and 6,000 fewer injuries or fatal accidents per month that can be directly attributed to the shelter-in-place order.

Since the shelter in place order, Los Angeles — consistently named the country’s smoggiest metropolitan area in the United States with the nation’s 6th worst traffic congestion — has had its longest stretch of clean air since 1980, the earliest year with available EPA data. The planet’s wildlife is also taking a break. While India is on quarantine, thousands of undisturbed sea turtles were able to lay an estimated 60 million eggs on beaches normally covered by people. With South Africa on lockdown, prides of lions lounge on the roads undisturbed. And herds of wild goats took over the roads in a Welsh town in the United Kingdom.

The Bad – Unemployment

More than 26 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment benefits in the past five weeks. Economists note the unemployment rate is almost certainly at its highest level since the Great Depression. California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order and has seen the greatest number of job losses. In a state with an estimated labor force of 19.5 million, 3.3 million Californians have filed unemployment applications since March 14. 

The Uncertain – The Road Ahead

Businesses, government agencies, schools, and nearly every professional industry is wondering how and if people’s work and life patterns are not just changing now but changing forever. In an effort to collect information to help guide future policy and industry decisions, researchers have begun to collaborate on a behavior survey to collect this critical data.

Together with collaborators from across the U.S., Deborah Salon (Associate Director of the TOMNET University Transportation Center at Arizona State University) has developed a new survey to gather data on the extent to which we are likely to “go back” to our pre-COVID-19 way of living. The survey focuses on the adoption of remote working, distance learning, online shopping, online socializing, and the potential for these to change day-to-day travel patterns and air travel. If demand for these things changes a lot, it has the potential to transform our cities in ways that we need to prepare for. The data will ultimately be shared publicly at regular intervals over the next few months in hopes that this information will help our nation better plan for what’s next!

The survey link is here, it takes about 20 minutes, and is open to any adult (18+) living in the U.S. Please take a moment to complete the survey and share with others: https://asu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3WcMRvJzfRkj2Yd

Policy in Motion has partnered to help get the word out and encourages businesses, associations, and governments to do the same — if interested, please contact Deborah at deborah.salon@asu.edu