COVID-19 State Policy Update 07.17.20

CA Capitol building

Today, Friday, July 17, 2020Governor Newsom provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and addressed one of the most important issues—opening schools. He began by noting there are more than 1,000 individual school districts in California and within those districts, there are 6.5 million students and 625,000 educators and support staff. The Governor stated there are foundational principles that guide the decisions regarding whether and when schools open. The Guidance for Schools is published on the Department of Public Health website (read more here). Governor Newsom went through the principles using a PowerPoint presentation—the content of his presentation is spelled out in a news release addressing the opening of schools (read more here).

He began this part of the presentation noting, “Learning is non-negotiable. Schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic whether they are physically open or closedStudents, parents, teachers, and staff prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely, which is determined by the local public health data.” The Governor has stated on numerous occasions that all decisions are based on the science and data. 

Pandemic Plan for Schools

  1. Safe in-person school based on local health data.
    1. Schools may open if they have not been on the Monitoring List or when they have been off of the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days. 
    2. Schools that do not meet this requirement, must begin the academic year with distance learning.
  2. Masks are required to all staff, educators, and students grade three and above. 
  3. For students in grades K-2, masks or face shields are strongly encouraged. The Governor noted younger children are sometimes intimidated and recoil when they are faced with adults wearing masks, as he has also witnessed this in his youngest child. 
  4. Staff must maintain 6’ distance between each other and with students.
  5. School must begin each day with symptom checks, including temperature.
  6. School must have hand washing stations.
  7. School must conduct sanitization and disinfection.
  8. School must have and follow quarantine protocols.
  9. Staff must be tested regularly.
  10. Contact tracing will be used to help mitigate the spread of the virus using isolation and quarantine. The state’s contact tracing workforce of 10,000 will be used to assist with this task.
  11. Schools must address equity and digital divide issues.
  12. Access to devices and connectivity for all students.
  13. Daily live interaction with teachers and other students.
  14. Must provide challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes.
  15. Adapt lessons for English learners and special education student needs. This also applies to helping homeless students and those in the Foster Care system.
  16. Physical distancing and other adaptations.
  17. Regular testing of educators and staff, and dedicated contact tracing.
  18. Rigorous distance learning. 


The Governor noted there is $5.3 billion dollars in the state budget to fund special education needs and for schools to purchase technology and improve connectivity. Closing the digital divide and provide equity in technology for all students is a priority for the funding, as well as addressing learning loss, which most experts have noted is significant (from the sudden shutdown earlier this year). These needs, the Governor noted are the minimum requirements. 

Everyone should strive to do more. We know in-class learning is more effective; however, it may not be possible, given the circumstances we find ourselves in at this moment.”

When Should a Class, School or District Move to Distance Learning?

  1. Schools should consult with their local public health official first.
  2. A classroom cohort goes home when there is a confirmed COVID-19 case.
  3. A school should go home when multiple cohorts are positive or more than 5% of the school population tests positive for COVID-19.
  4. A district should have students go home if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period.

The Governor noted that the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education have issued guidance for schools. It must be acknowledged that schools, as is the case with counties, are all different depending on where they are located in the state. Some may experience the need to move from in-class learning to distance-learning, if their case numbers grow; however, it is possible that a neighboring district in another county is experiencing a few cases and can therefore continue with in-person learning. 

The Governor reiterated many experts, including Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education Emeritus from Stanford University and Chair of the State Board of Education, and Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of Health and Human Services, have had input in designing the guidance for schools during this challenging time. One of the key points in their work is recognizing the differences around the stat that allows some schools to open with in-class learning, while some other schools may not be able to start with in-class, in-person learning.

He told the audience a lot has been done to support the education system, including issuing two months of PPE to the schools, including face shields in various sizes. Putting more money in the state budget to help improve distance learning, closing the digital divide, and improving connectivity. He reminded the audience large companies, such as Google, Amazon, and Verizon have made significant contributions to improve connectivity and close the digital divide by getting 70,000 tablets to students in need. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is doing targeted mapping where connectivity is not optimal and provided $25 million to help improve connectivity by cutting the cost in half.

Governor Newsom closed his presentation by updating the COVID-19 data and reminding the audience, that he understands how much everyone wants children to be in the classroom to learn, but stated, “the only people who can really have an impact on that desire, are the teachers, staff, parents, and community—and that is by wearing a mask, washing hands often, disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding mixing with people outside of your immediate family. The single most important non-pharmaceutical thing you can do to help get students back in the classroom is to practice behaviors that limit the spread of the virus and that starts with wearing a mask. If everyone wore a mask, within weeks we will see the curve bend back downward. We have the power to help small businesses stay in business and get students back in the classroom by simply wearing a mask.“

He closed by reminding everyone to read the guidance for schools, which is published on the California Department of Public Health website (read more here).


The first three questions from the media focused on whether the Governor believed the schools are ready to open, as early as August 17, given the fact that 32 counties are on the state Monitoring list. And whether the Governor believed students would receive a high-quality education if they are forced to spend most of the school year in a distance learning environment. The Governor noted that while the schools were thrown into distance learning with little notice (last March) and thought it might only be for two weeks, they did their best to accommodate student learning needs, given the situation. Now, he noted they have had time to prepare for these situations with a number of resources, including training for online and distance learning. He also reminded the reporter of the $5.3 billion in the budget to help address other needs and concerns. 

The next questions focused on whether there is enough support for parents, especially those with children on the autism spectrum who have reported there are not enough resources and in the distance learning environment these students regress significantly. The Governor asked Linda Darling-Hammond to address these questions. Dr. Darling-Hammond told the audience a lot has been done to support educators and help them prepare for a range of student needs. She described how Zoom could be used for small group activities and even one-one-one interactions with students, if needed.

The next two questions focused on the Trump administration and the President’s declaration that he will cut funding to states that do not open their schools for in-person learning and if the economy had opened more slowly in May, is it possible schools might be in a better position to open for in-person learning? The Governor responded that he will not play coulda, woulda, shoulda, or speculate on what might have happened under other circumstances. Nor would he politicize this issue. The focus is on providing a safe environment for students to learn—if that can be achieved, the schools may open for in-person learning. Every decision is based on current conditions and data. 

The final question was about the guidance developed for schools and the requirements the Governor presented today—the reporter asked if these are recommendations or requirements, and do they apply to both public and private schools and what about universities and community colleges?  The Governor responded that they are working with the UC and CSUs regarding requirements and guidance for their institutions. Yes, he noted, the guidance and instructions he provided today apply to both private and public schools and with their adoption by the Legislature, they are a mandate and must be followed.

The Governor closed his press conference by once again reminding everyone to do the right thing and wear a mask, wash their hands often, and avoid over-mixing with other people. 

Current State Orders

As of today, July 17, there are 32 counties on the state’s Monitoring List. As a consequence of the increasing positivity rate, the hospitalization and ICU 

increases, new conditions were released on July 13. (read more here). 

  • Restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms (find guidance docs here). Restaurants and eateries are encouraged to expand their outdoor operations (read more here).
  • Places of worship, (read more here).
  • Zoos and museums, (read more here).
  • Family entertainment centers, such as bowling, theaters, and video game centers, (read more here). 
  • Card rooms, (read more here).
  • All bars, brewpubs, breweries and pubs must shutdown—no indoor or outdoor operations (read more here).


This order applies to ALL counties, not only those on the Monitoring List. State officials are encouraging these sectors to develop and expand outdoor activity, as that is allowed under the order if the facility is able to maintain appropriate physical distancing, masks are required, and appropriate sanitization steps are taken, as required in the published guidelines for each sector. Below under Navigating the COVID-19 Site, you will find links to updated guidance for each sector. 

New orders for counties on the Monitoring List

For the 32 counties on the Monitoring list, the following sectors must close all indoor and outdoor operations, while the county is on the Monitoring List. 

  • Fitness Centers and gyms (read more here)
  • Worship services (read more here)
  • Offices for non-critical staff (read more here)
  • Personal services, including salons, barber shops, and nail salons (read more here
  • Indoor protests
  • Indoor shopping malls (read more here

The Latest on the Monitoring List

After three consecutive days on the Monitoring List, counties are subject to the new order (for at least three weeks), which includes ceasing all indoor dining in restaurants, closing bars, and no alcoholic beverages may be sold without an accompanying meal (read more about monitored counties here); (find the Monitoring List here). 

Wildfire evacuation protocols

New protocols and plans to keep fire crews and the public safe from COVID-19 during wildfire season and community evacuations (Read more here). 

Navigating the COVID-19 Dashboard
The Governor is encouraging Californians to follow their county’s progress via the State’s Dashboard, which provides COVID-19 data updates daily (find statewide and county data here). Once in a Dashboard report, you may click on individual counties (on the right column) to see county-specific testing and outcome data or hospitalization rates in each county (click here for case statistics); (click herefor hospitalization and ICU data).

Key milestones – COVID-19 numbers – as of today (7.17.20)

The Governor noted the most important measures of the trajectory of the virus are the Positivity rate and the 7-day average; in some cases, only the 14-day average is available. 

  • 7,475 deaths, up by 130 overnight or +1.8%; 14-day total 1,212 up 19.4% 
  • 366,164 positive cases - up by 9,986 or +2.8%; 14-day total 117,929 up by 47.5%. 
  • The state’s positivity rate continues to increase; the 7-day positivity rate is 7.1%; the 14-day positivity rate is also 7.4%. 
  • 6,044,099 tests conducted; 1-day total 128,159; 14-day up 1,595,923 or 35.9%.
    • Latinos continue to have the highest percentage of positive cases at 55%; Caucasians 18%; Asians 6%, and Blacks 4%.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID positive is 6,808 down by 31 or 0.5%; 14-day rolling average is 6,266. Suspected patients with COVID-19 is 1,642, up by 56 or + 3.5%; 14-day rolling average is 1,549.
  • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 2,188; followed by Orange County 682; San Bernardino 600; Riverside 535; San Diego 388; Kern 245; Fresno 242; Stanislaus 200; San Joaquin 193; Sacramento 185; Alameda 164; Santa Clara 147; Ventura 104.
  • ICU – COVID positive patients in ICU is 1,941 up by 44 or 2.3%; the 14-day rolling average is 1,800. Number of suspected COVID-19 in ICU is 212 down by 11 or 4.9%. Available beds statewide is 3,802.


Printer Friendly, PDF & Email