With all this talk of phases and stages, modified reopening and partial reopening, expansive documents and vague slide decks, it can be hard to understand what you should be doing now – let alone what you should be planning for in the next few weeks and months. Here’s a breakdown to get you started.

A few things that are important to know as of May 7, 2020: 

  • The Governor’s announcement that the State will move into “early Stage two” of its Pandemic Roadmap DOES NOT MEAN our County will move into Phase 1 of our START Guide.
  • As of May 7, the County does not have the authority to implement the START Guide, as we are still under the State’s order. 
  • Along with the County and regional partners, we will continue to advocate and plan for more local control 
  • START Guide will be adapted based on feedback that aligns with the data and public health guidance, as promised
  • Based on the Governor’s briefing on May 7, we are in the first part of the State’s Stage 2.

What’s all the confusion about? With our current shelter order, the state’s guidelines are the umbrella – a county can have more strict rules but everyone in the state has to at least follow the State’s shelter order. You can read the details of the State’s order here and see a boiled down timeline to your right.


Over the past few weeks and days (who can even keep track any more) communities and elected officials – including some in SLO County – have been asking the Governor to let them do their own thing as they have been able to flatten the curve more quickly than other areas and are prepared to move forward. 

On April 28, the State shared it’s roadmap to modify the stay at home order which outlines four stages of reopening and alludes to some measure of local authority. While it did not include dates, the Governor did share a broad strokes overview of areas of the economy that might reopen more quickly and those that are higher risk and will reopen more slowly. Dr. Sonia Angell, the State’s head of public health, said that county elected and public health officials will be able to submit their own “readiness plans” for keeping residents safe and preventing the spread of the virus. 

The Governor kicked off May with a bang, releasing a “report card” to help determine whether counties are ready to reopen. He also announced plans to issue a new Executive Order on Friday, May 8 allowing retail businesses to open through curbside pickup and delivery (no in-store shopping) and for the supply chains that support retail (think manufacturing and warehouses) to open with modifications.

SLO County

In the midst of all of this – namely May 1 – SLO County was the first in the state to submit a reopening framework to the Governor. That framework – known as the START Guide – includes:

  • A three phased plan to open slowly and systematically, with different recommendations under each phase
  • A list of specific health criteria for moving forward and potentially backward as things change 
  • Suggested strategies for protecting public and worker health while gradually reopening your business (see the breakdowns by industry below)
  • An assessment of our county’s readiness to Meet California’s Six Indicators for Modifying the Stay at Home Order

While this guide is fairly comprehensive, it is still a draft and does not have everything that our community will need to reopen. While there are differences between the State roadmap and the START Guide, there are many important elements that are the same – two of the big ones: the medical and health indicators.

Reminder: the START Guide doesn’t have dates on when the first phase of reopening will happen and it does not go into effect until the Governor gives his OK.

All together now (maybe)

All of this layering of authority, rapid evolution, vague information and governmental language have created the perfect storm of confusion and – for some – wishful thinking.

“It’s unclear whether the State will give us the latitude to move forward in our own measured way with the approach outlined in our START Guide,” said County Public Health Officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein. “This is very disappointing because our community is ready to move forward. We continue to advocate and plan for local control and will revise our START Guide, as promised.” 

The START Guide and a letter sent by mayors, some supervisors and Assemblyman Cunningham clearly spell out the County’s desired approach for reopening.

“We appreciate the State’s efforts to move toward reopening, but we would like authorization to move forward with our approach as outlined in the START Guide,” said County Administrative Officer and Emergency Services Director Wade Horton. 

Confused yet? 

We’ve created a visual indicator to help you get a feel for what this means for different types of businesses. It will be updated as we get more information from the state, as the County updates the START guide, and as our status evolves.

covid reopening

Ready for more details? Check out the sector-by sector guidelines as of 2 p.m. on May 7:

Visit our COVID-19 page to stay up to date on resources for your business. As always, if you have any questions or if there’s anything the SLO Chamber can do to support you or your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are all in this together.