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Riverside County Supervisors to vote on ending coronavirus restrictions

A car with a "release Riverside" sign on it
A demonstrator participates in a car rally to protest conditions in Riverside County jails.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

On the eve of a controversial vote, Riverside County supervisors made their case Monday as to why the county’s COVID-19 restrictions should be lifted.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey and 2nd District Supervisor Karen Spiegel told reporters that precautionary orders have made it possible for the county to contain the virus and prevent a hospital surge that was expected to occur in mid-April. But now that the virus is seemingly under control, they want to focus on the county’s economic future.

“The metrics in Riverside County have improved,” Spiegel said at a news conference. “That was due to the extra measures that the county put in place early on. We were one of the first that stepped up and said we’re going to fight this battle. The positive results would not have been possible if the community didn’t do their part and step up.”

Spiegel and 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez will go before the board Tuesday to recommend that all of the county’s own public health orders be revoked. Specifically, the supervisors are asking to rescind school closures, to end limitations on short-term lodging, to remove restrictions on golf course use and eliminate the requirements to wear face coverings and engage in social distancing.

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Last week, the county’s public health officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, lifted a few restrictions, such as allowing for the reopening of some parks, trails and recreation areas including golf courses and tennis courts. However, Kaiser also extended a county health order requiring residents to wear face coverings and practice social distancing through June 19.

Individual counties have the authority to impose health orders that best suit their region, as long as they are not more lax than the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. Riverside County, which has reported 4,354 cases — the second highest in the state — had implemented some of the strictest public health orders in California.

“I want to thank our residents and our county team, whose actions to this unprecedented pandemic have helped us get to this point,” Perez said in a written statement. “Now, we must continue to prepare for our economic recovery and get people back to work.”

The Board of Supervisors will be voting on the supervisors’ agenda item at their meeting on Tuesday. The vote will not replace Newsom’s stay-at-home order, according to Brooke Federico, the county’s public information officer.

Moving onto the second phase

During the press conference Monday, Bailey said he thinks the county is ready for the second stage of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-stage plan, which includes the opening of low-risk workplaces such as retail and manufacturing. Last week, Newsom said that the state is “weeks, not months” away from making meaningful modifications in the current restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bailey said the Inland Empire is ready to open three sectors in the second stage: retail and manufacturing, recreation and religion. He said he wants to make sure that the city he represents and the rest of the county have detailed plans for when the governor lifts restrictions.

“Our region desires to be on our toes, not on our heels, at the front of the pack when the governor gives us the green light,” Bailey said. “We are eagerly awaiting for the go-ahead to restart Riverside’s regional economy.”

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Bailey invited local business and religious leaders to share written plans for safely reopening their establishments. John Collins, the executive pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, said he planned to hold multiple drive-in services in the church’s parking lot, which could accommodate nearly 1,000 cars, until they can hold indoor services. The church is one of four drive-up testing sites in the county where residents — both with and without symptoms — can be tested for COVID-19.

Andrea Taylor, owner of A Taylored Body, said that she’d utilize her gym’s bay doors to divide the facility into sections to allow more social distancing. She said she would also install more hand sanitizer stations and control the number of people inside the studio.

Bailey said the purpose of the news conference was to “communicate directly with our residents about the county’s progress on COVID-19 and to build their confidence about our readiness to move” into the next phase of reopening.

“Our Western Riverside regional leaders wanted to demonstrate the success in which our county has managed this virus to date and to call on the state to allow for greater levels of local control,” Bailey said in an email. “Our businesses and faith-based communities have went to great lengths to plan for a reopening and they can be trusted to be responsible moving forward.”

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Tracking COVID-19 in Riverside County

As of Monday afternoon, 181 residents have died from the novel coronavirus, which is 20 more than was reported the previous day.

Nearly 2,000 people have recovered from the virus, and about 56,300 people have been tested, according to health officials.


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