These California communities say it’s safe to start reopening. Will Newsom allow it?
Some California communities have asked for permission to begin easing stay-at-home restrictions, saying they have made enough progress against the coronavirus to justify reopening their areas.
The requests reflect how some smaller counties are beginning to see coronavirus cases decline more dramatically than some larger counties, raising hopes that they might be able to relax restrictions before others.
In Los Angeles County, where more than 100 coronavirus deaths were recorded over the weekend, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said allowing stay-at-home rules to end too soon could worsen the situation.
“I know many of you are feeling frustrated or wondering when we’ll be able to lift the Safer at Home order. But lifting the restrictions too soon could risk lives. My promise to the people of L.A. is that evidence and medicine will continue to guide us through this crisis,” the mayor said on Twitter.
As with finding ventilators and protective equipment, states are in competition for serology testing in the race to safely reopen the economy, with little federal assistance.
At a news conference Monday, San Luis Obispo County officials said they have bent the coronavirus curve and were beginning to craft a “phase two” that would allow some businesses to reopen.
“This is not to be a light switch” that returns the community to where it was in January, said county public health officer Penny Borenstein. Rather, officials are working to implement gradual changes.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson said that any changes would be guided by science and would need the approval of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The county, which has reported 132 cases and one death, asked Newsom on Monday to grant it the “authority to implement a phased reopening of our local economy.”
That request came just days after Ventura County officials modified a stay-at-home order to permit some businesses to reopen and some gatherings to take place.
Officials in San Luis Obispo County noted that their coronavirus infection rate has been declining because residents have been diligent in adhering to stay-at-home orders and practicing social distancing. But with businesses shut down and so many people out of work, the county faces a perilous financial outlook.
As a result, officials requested approval to “begin a science-based, thoughtfully phased reopening of our economy.”
“We have asked our residents to take these desperate measures because of the unique risks posed to the broader community by this virus so that we can flatten the curve and allow our healthcare capacity to catch up,” they said in a letter to the governor. “Now we need to move to the next phase, which is economic recovery.”
Life is slowly returning to normal in some parts of the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic. But health experts warn a rapid reopening could quickly go wrong.
Placerville, in El Dorado County east of Sacramento, has not lifted any stay-at-home orders, but the City Council last week voted to send a letter to Newsom asking when the city could reopen. City leaders say their town should be able to reopen before bigger cities that have been hit harder by the outbreak.
“The city needs to advocate [for opening stores sooner] because we have a very low infection rate — even though I got it,” Vice Mayor Dennis Thomas told the Mountain Democrat. Thomas recently recovered from COVID-19.
Members of the Sutter County Board of Supervisors have also reached out to Newsom, urging him to allow rural areas like theirs to reopen sooner than big cities.
“We’d like the governor to know that we expect to be treated somewhat differently than Los Angeles and San Francisco since they are in a little different situation than we are,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Sullenger told KOVR-TV in Sacramento.
Coronavirus cases in California topped 30,000, with nearly 1,150 deaths, as officials said science would determine when they lifted restrictions.
Newsom said Monday that, while areas across the state have been affected differently by the pandemic, the “virus knows no jurisdiction, knows no boundaries” and could easily spread into neighboring counties if restrictions are eased prematurely. It’s critical to the collective well-being of all Californians to have a statewide, health-based strategy to return to some sense of normalcy, he said.
“None of these local health directives can go further or, rather, go further backward than the state guidance,” Newsom said during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday.
Newsom said he expects many more requests similar to the one from San Luis Obispo County. He promised that his administration will discuss each request with local officials “to make sure it’s a health-based decision. Not any other type of decision making. Health first, science and data. Everything else follows from that.”
The updated order rolled out by Ventura County on Saturday, which is in place through May 15, allows some businesses that don’t serve the public to operate using no more than 10 employees. Gatherings of up to five people are now permitted, as are gatherings in vehicles.
Golf courses and bike shops can reopen, and in-person sales of vehicles are now permitted. Officials also reopened county-run parks at 5 p.m. Friday.
Residents are still required to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing when visiting essential businesses. Leaving home to exercise is permitted, but gyms will remain closed.
Riverside County announced Monday it was allowing golf courses to reopen --but with restrictions.
“Play is being cautiously reopened for observation,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer said in a statement, stressing that social distancing guidelines remain in effect.
Health officials released the following guidelines:
• Play shall be limited to foursomes. The players will be required to observe a six-foot separation at all times.
• No caddies are permitted.
• No large gatherings, including fundraisers or tournaments, will be permitted before June 20.
• Face coverings, such as scarves, bandannas and neck gaiters, shall be worn by players and workers.
• No in-person dining will be allowed at clubhouses.
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