SACRAMENTO (CBSLA/AP) – For some sports fans in Southern California, several months late may be better than never.

California could begin holding sporting events without fans by early June if current trends in COVID-19 data continue, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday. Haircuts and in-store shopping could also begin to be permitted again, the governor said.

He said the reopening of churches could begin within weeks.

Any moves would be conditioned on continued declines in the number of COVID-related cases and hospitalizations.

Earlier this month, Newsom expressed doubt about the prospect of sporting events being played in front of fans in the near future, saying “It’s difficult to imagine a stadium that’s filled until we have immunity and until we have a vaccine.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the Los Angeles Lakers reopening their practice facility, although no timeline for a return has yet to be announced by the NBA.

Both the NBA and the NHL suspended their seasons in March when the coronavirus pandemic began in the U.S.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.

The new criteria he outlined applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state. While retail may open for curbside pickup statewide, restrictions on dining in at restaurants and other services are still in place statewide. Counties can move faster if they win state approval.

Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California already won approval under the old guidance.

But the governor cautioned that openings would be contingent on the impacts of the virus in individual counties, meaning Los Angeles County — which has been more dramatically impacted by COVID-19, representing half of the state’s COVID-19 cases and deaths — could move significantly slower in reopening more
businesses.

“L.A. County is in a different position than other parts of the state,” Newsom said, adding county officials would likely “be cautious” in relaxing local restrictions.

The new criteria eliminates requirements that a county have zero deaths and no more than than one case per 10,000 residents over a two-week period. Instead, counties must have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or no higher than an 8% positive rate among people testing for the coronavirus.

They also must have no higher than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a 7-day period or fewer than 20 hospitalizations total over 14 days. The latter will ensure small counties don’t get penalized for just one or two extra hospitalizations.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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