May 18, 2020 / 5:27 PM / 11 days ago

Fan-free sports and curbside retail as California loosens coronavirus rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area may open for curbside retail and manufacturing, while fan-free professional sports events might be allowed as soon as June, as California continued to loosen coronavirus health restrictions on Monday.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday 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-transmission 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.

Newsom eased rules for local counties to make it easier for them to open restaurants for sit-down dining and retail outlets for in-store shopping.

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 open for manufacturing, retail with curbside pickup and warehouse distribution.

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 region has remained stable or decreased over a two-week period, the directors said.

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

In their new order issued Monday, the health directors said residents should still stay mostly at home, and requires people to wear face coverings when they are out. San Mateo County, which includes San Francisco International Airport, updated its health orders last week.

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.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Lisa Shumaker

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