A rural California county allowed nonessential businesses to reopen and diners to eat in restaurants on Friday, becoming the first to challenge Governor Gavin Newsom’s state orders prohibiting such actions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Modoc County is “moving forward with our reopening plan,” Modoc County Assistant Director of Emergency Services Heather Hadwick said in an email to The Associated Press.
She said the county of approximately 9,000 in the far northeast of the state, next to Oregon, has had no cases of COVID-19.
Hadwick said the county had not heard from the governor about its reopening plan, but said it aligns with Newsom’s indicators for the reopening. Schools did not open on Friday, but it was an option for districts that can accommodate preventive measures, he said.
“We are using your guidance on those plans and we have zero cases,” he wrote. “Our residents moved on with or without us. We really needed to create guidelines for them so that they could do it as safely as possible. ”
At the Country Hearth restaurant and bakery in the small town of Cedarville, three customers came for breakfast, owner Janet Irene said.
Irene said her regulars had been very cooperative with orders that had allowed her to serve takeout since the end of March.
She said she was still concerned that the county did not have the governor’s seal of approval.
Newsom did not say during its daily briefing on Thursday whether it would intervene in Modoc County as it did in Southern California by ordering the closure of all beaches in Orange County.
On Friday, an order went into effect to close the shores from the rich Newport Beach to the artistic Laguna Beach and to Doheny.
A weekend followed where tens of thousands of landlocked and homebound people hit the sands in southern Los Angeles County, where the beaches have been closed for weeks. Newsom chastised people for defying the spirit of their state order to stay home, designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has killed some 2,000 people in the state.
“The people who congregate there, who weren’t practicing physical distancing … maybe they don’t even know they contracted the disease and are now putting other people at risk,” Newsom said.
Newsom said it hoped it would be “a very short-term adjustment,” although the directive had no termination date.
Newsom has generated strong bipartisan support for most of its actions during the virus outbreak. But more recently, some of the state’s most rural and GOP-leaning areas have begun to become irritated at what they see as an overly cautious move toward reopening California, which has seen its 40 million people cloistered and its economy with bleeding jobs due to compulsory business. closures
Newsom’s beach order was condemned as a punitive political outreach by some Republican lawmakers, especially those in Orange County, where the Republican Party hopes to regain lost ground for Democrats in what was once a Republican stronghold.
“At a time when California is granting early release to high-risk sex offenders and other dangerous inmates due to COVID-19 concerns, the implicit threat to punish beach lovers and surfers who violate the order it’s absurd, “said State Senator Patricia Bates, R. -Laguna Niguel, said in a statement.
The Huntington Beach and Dana Point municipalities voted Thursday to pursue legal challenges against the order. Newport Beach planned to discuss their challenge options this weekend.
Elected officials in beach communities like San Clemente argued that they are aware of the need to contain the virus and are managing to reduce the threat across the county through safe practices.
Orange County, by comparison, is home to more than 3 million people. The county Health Care Agency reported an additional 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to around 2,400 with 45 deaths.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said he would focus on warning and educating people that they should practice social distancing instead of citing them for violating state order.
“I don’t want to enforce any aspect of that through arrest,” he said.