STOCKTON — Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved San Joaquin County’s variance to Stage 2 of California’s roadmap to modify the state’s stay-at-home order.


Late Thursday afternoon, San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park received word the county can move deeper into Phase 2 of the state’s four-stage plan to reopen. The state has been under stay-at-home orders since March. San Joaquin is now one of 42 counties statewide approved to move forward.


"Everybody was waiting and waiting for that," Park said. "I’m so happy we got attested for variance through Stage 2.


"What it means is that we are able to demonstrate that we meet the criteria to move at an accelerated rate through the rest of Stage 2 of the governor’s roadmap to reopening," Park said.


Effective Friday, dine-in restaurants and destination retail (shopping malls and swap meets) may reopen but must adhere to specific guidelines for their industry, including capacity, physical distancing and cleaning measures.


Kevin Hernandez, owner of AVE on the Mile in Stockton, said he and his staff are thrilled and ready to welcome their customers.


"We are so excited even to come back under the conditions we can meet, even if it’s 50% capacity," Hernandez said. "We have met with our staff and we have prepared for this day knowing it would come sooner than later. We are ready."


Hernandez said when word spread, business owners on the Miracle Mile waved to each other and shouted in celebration.


"We are all so excited," he said. "It felt really good."


Park said she is cautiously optimistic the state is not moving too quickly. She said the numbers in San Joaquin County have been good, and she will pay close attention to the rates of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the coming days and weeks.


As of Thursday, there were 733 total cases, up 18 from the previous day; 167 hospitalizations, up nine from the previous week; 11 total outbreaks, which have not increased in the past week; 584 total recoveries; and 33 total deaths, two more than last week, according to San Joaquin Public Health Services. San Joaquin County’s population is 762,148.


Contact reporter Bob Highfill at (209) 546-8277 or jhighfill@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobhighfill.