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Friday, May 15, 2020

LOS ANGELES (AP)—As California takes baby steps toward reopening public spaces, families who'd been cooped up for nearly two months spent Mother's Day in parks and on trails with reminders to keep up social distancing practices.

Moms in cars were lauded at a weekend drive-through parade where people waved signs and blew horns outside Saddleback Church in Orange County.

In Bakersfield, residents of the Kern River Transitional Care nursing home lined up on a sidewalk as family members drove by to wish their loved ones a happy Mother's Day.

Gov. Gavin Newsom last week allowed tens of thousands of stores to reopen, including florist shops, just in time for the celebration of mothers. The famous Los Angeles Flower Market did brisk business, with a line snaking around the block early Sunday as customers wearing masks waited to buy their bouquets.

But officials warned families to avoid gatherings that could cause new outbreaks. The director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health told residents last week not to visit their moms, even if wearing masks and maintaining distance.

Unless people live in the same households, “the greatest gift we can give to our mothers this Mother's Day is to stay away,” said Dr. Grant Colfax.

The city of Pasadena also warned against parties after health officials traced a cluster of at least five coronavirus cases to a birthday celebration last month.

The gathering held after Pasadena issued stay-at-home orders March 19 was attended by members of an extended family and friends who did not wear face coverings or stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart, the city said in a news release.

“One person showed up to the party exhibiting symptoms and joking she may have the virus,” Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for Pasadena, said in an email. “The aftermath affected several others who became seriously ill because of one person's negligent and selfish behavior.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Los Angeles County permitted the reopening of some hiking spots and golf courses but with rules that people must stay 6 feet apart. The city of Los Angeles reopened some its popular destinations, including sprawling Griffith Park, which includes popular paths to the Hollywood sign.

Mounted police and park rangers kept hikers to small, distant groups wearing face coverings. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged “good judgment” and said the city would rely on education and encouragement rather than heavy-handed enforcement.

County beaches could reopen as early as Wednesday with restrictions designed to keep people from thronging the shore and possibly spreading COVID-19.

Los Angeles County, the state's largest with 10 million residents, has more than half California's roughly 2,700 virus deaths and has seen dozens of new deaths daily. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged the risk that easing restrictions could lead to a new spike in infections.

“There is a lot at stake,” Ferrer said. “Reopening our county, even slowly, only works if we're all really committed to being careful.”

But pressure has been building to reopen the state, seven weeks after Newsom's stay-at-home order shut down nonessential businesses and told 40 million residents to stay mainly in their homes.

A sushi restaurant near Sacramento said it will reopen Sunday for dine-in service in defiance of state orders. Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills announced on Facebook that it will reopen its dining room for Mother's Day with modifications to promote social distancing and sanitation.

“We will be seating at half capacity, with a limited menu,” the announcement said. “There will be NO seating or standing at the bar or sushi bar,” and the restaurant has installed “partitions” between booths.

More than 4 million people statewide have filed for unemployment benefits. The California Department of Finance is projecting an unemployment rate of 18%, or 46% higher than the peak of the Great Recession a decade ago.

On Friday, Newsom eased the order and said roughly 70% of the state's businesses can open with restrictions.

Weekend shoppers can visit bookstores, as well as stores for jewelry, toys, clothing, shoes, home supplies and furnishing, sporting goods, antiques and music. People can't browse but must pick up purchases curbside.

While San Francisco and six Bay Area counties have said they won't ease their own retail restrictions for another week or longer, nearly two dozen counties—many of them small, rural populations with few coronavirus cases—want to move faster than called for under Newsom's four-phase reopening plan.

The governor said the state will allow that under strict criteria based on the number of cases, deaths and tests.

But the state also sent a stern warning to three Northern California counties that have been defying his orders. Leaders in Yuba, Sutter and Modoc counties have allowed businesses to reopen that are outside the scope of Newsom's plan, including dine-in restaurants, hair and nail salons and shopping malls.

On Friday, California's Office of Emergency Services told Yuba, Sutter and Modoc they could lose federal disaster aid if they continued ignoring the governor's order.

The Sutter County Board of Supervisors voted Saturday to pass a proposal telling the state the public health officer for the two counties attests they meet state criteria for broader reopening, the Appeal Democrat reported.

California is now in stage two of Newsom's four-phase process. The governor on Friday did provide a glimmer of hope that phase three, which would allow reopening of such businesses as nail salons, isn't far off. That phase would also allow for the reopening of churches, movie theaters and some hospitality services.

To move more quickly to reopen restaurants, malls, office buildings, childcare facilities and services such as car washes and pet grooming, counties must demonstrate they've had zero deaths and just one case per 10,000 residents during a two-week stretch, as well as robust testing and tracing and an ability to house up to 15% of the homeless.