California Gov. Gavin Newsom in March. REUTERS/Gabriela Bhaskar

California could allow pro sporting events to take place without fans present as soon as June 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday.

Newsom said the state has been in discussions with officials of all of the major sports leagues about a possible resumption of play. But rules aimed at protecting players and support staff from coronavirus have yet to be developed, and a possible June 1 opening date would depend on safety standards and infection rates in the most populous U.S. state.

He cited positive trends in fighting the virus across most parts of the Golden State. “A number of other sectors of our economy, will open up,” he said, “if we hold these trendlines in the next number of weeks. That includes, for example, getting a haircut, which is very meaningful.”

The Governor also announced modified rules for individual counties to make it easier for them to open restaurants for sit-down dining and retail outlets for in-store shopping.

The new guidelines are that counties report no more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a seven-day period, no more than 8% of new tests come back positive, and 15 trained contract-tracing workers are employed per 100,000 population.

Newsom said roughly 53 of the state’s 58 counties would likely qualify for further reopening under these new rules.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, which was hit hard and early by the virus, health directors of five counties moved to loosen some restrictions that had lagged other parts of the state.

Businesses in those counties — San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, Marin and Contra Costa — may now open for manufacturing, retail with curbside pickup and warehouse distribution as San Diego County did last week.

The modest loosening of public health restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic comes after the number of new cases in the heavily populated Bay Area has remained stable or decreased over a two-week period.

The area, which includes California’s storied Silicon Valley technology hub, was the first in the state to report a cluster of coronavirus infections and the first to order residents to shelter at home.

Health officials said residents should still stay mostly at home and wear face coverings when they are out.

Nearly all 50 U.S. states were at some stage of reopening on Monday as authorities eased restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus and stock markets rose on results of an early test of a potential vaccine.

Updated at 2:05 p.m., Monday, May 18, 2020

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.