Washington, D.C.—The Natural Products Association (NPA)wrote a letterto California Governor Gavin Newsom asserting the necessity of keeping essential businesses, including health food stores, to remain open under new COVID-19 restrictions.

California is announcing a regional stay-at-home order triggered by ICU capacity.The orderexplains that health officials are tracking the states by five regions: Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California. The regulation took effect Saturday December 5, affecting regions with less than 15% ICU availability. The orders will be lifted after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15%.

Under these orders, businesses in several sectors will be required to close; certain sectors will be allowed to remain open, including retail, where all will be required to wear masks and abide by social distancing rules. Indoor operation will be limited to 20% capacity. The order states that special hours “should” be instituted for seniors and others with compromised immune systems.

The order does not specifically mention grocery stores, or differentiate between conventional, mass, natural, or health food grocery stores.

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“We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” said Governor Newsomin a press release. “By invoking a Stay at Home Order for regions where ICU capacity falls below 15 percent, we can flatten the curve as we’ve done before and reduce stress on our health care system. I’m clear-eyed that this is hard on all of us—especially our small businesses who are struggling to get by. That’s why we leaned in to help our small business owners with new grants and tax relief to help us get through this month. If we stay home as much as possible, and wear masks when we have to go to the doctor, shop for groceries or go for a hike, California can come out of this in a way that saves lives and puts us on a path toward economic recovery.”

“Staying home for three weeks is a sacrifice, but if every Californian did that for a month, we could stop this disease in its tracks,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Acting State Public Health Officer. “This public health order strikes the balance between saving lives, providing essential services that we all rely on and still allowing Californians to participate in lower-risk outdoor activities that are crucial for our physical and mental health.”

In NPA’s letter, the association stressed that California public health officials should follow guidance issued by the Department of Homeland Security in August, which stated that health food stores and the supplement supply chain are essential.

The letter stated: “It is imperative that essential businesses such as health-food stores that provide nutritional supplements and other health and wellness products will continue to be allowed to remain open for business during this public health emergency…At a time when there is a heightened focus on health and wellness, it’s important that industry is available to provide the public with products that will help them maintain their health or supplement their diets to improve potentially deficient diets. It is our hope that you will continue to encourage the entire dietary supplement supply chain to remain open for business providing the public with the opportunities to support their health at this critical time.”

“Our businesses are going to stay open to serve local communities just as they did in the spring,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA, in the press release. “Public health officials must take a health-first approach to fighting this virus that includes ensuring Americans have access to nutritional supplements to support their health. Over the past eight months, our businesses have done a tremendous job complying with state, local and federal guidance to keep their employees and customers safe. Our businesses will continue to provide essential services to millions of Americans as we enter the next stage of this pandemic.”