Updated 1:56 p.m.
California could be "many days, not weeks," from relaxing parts of its stay-at-home order, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday — but that could change if residents start to congregate in larger numbers.
"The only thing that is going to hold us back is the spread of this virus," he said. "And the only thing that is assured to advance the spread of the virus is thousands of people congregating together. If we can avoid that, we're going to get to the other side of this with modifications."
Newsom said some changes could come as soon as next week, but did not provide specifics. Over the past few weeks the governor has introduced steps the state would need to take to reopen, and a phased approach for how that might happen.
"We're getting very, very close to making some announcements that will be meaningful to people in the retail sector, hospitality sector, and yes that includes restaurants," Newsom said.
The hints at modifying the state's order came as demonstrators protested at the Capitol and officials in Orange County introduced a lawsuit challenging the state's closure of its beaches.
Newsom deferred questions about enforcing the state's social distancing guidelines at the Capitol protest to the California Highway Patrol, and thanked the demonstrators for expressing themselves.
"That expression this year is one of frustration and concern and deeply understandable anxiety about the economy and fate and future of their families," he said. "We're getting very close to making really meaningful augmentations to that stay-at-home order. I want to say many days, not weeks, as long as we continue to be prudent and thoughtful."
Newsom pointed out some positive markers in California's efforts, including 8 million new surgical masks delivered to the state. He said acquiring more personal protective equipment, both for frontline workers and the public, is "foundational" for reopening the state.
The state is now averaging around 25,000 COVID-19 tests a day, Newsom said. He has previously said the state would need to increase its daily testing capacity to more than 60,000 a day before lifting some restrictions.
Still, Newsom announced 92 more deaths from the disease over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of Californians who have died to more than 2,000. More than 50,000 positive cases have been identified.
The state continues to see large increases in unemployment filings, with more than 3.9 million since March 12. That includes 340,000 people who have signed up for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which opened up to Californians on Tuesday. The federal funding allows independent contractors and the self-employed to receive unemployment benefits.
Newsom recognized that many people have had to wait or been unable to file for benefits because of technical and staffing issues at the Employment Development Department, but that workers are “processing those as fast as humanly possible."
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