Amidst a California stay-at-home order with no definitive end date, Modoc County has announced that it plans to reopen on Friday using its own social distancing policies, unrestrained by the stricter guidelines that have been set by the state.
According to The Associated Press, the county board of supervisors voted to reopen on Friday after consulting with local health officials.
In a joint statement, the public health director’s office and the sheriff’s office said the move is the correct action given the county’s rural location, reports SFGate. The statement notes that “residents and businesses have been able to adapt their framework to fit the physical distancing guidelines put forth by California.”
“We cannot stress enough how important it is to do this right. COVID-19 is not over,” emphasizes the statement.
“Modoc needs to be open to salvage our local economy and to move forward in this pandemic,” said the joint statement. “This is the beginning of a very long road to recovery. The reopening plan was made in the best interest of residents’ physical, mental, and economic health.”
Modoc County, which has only about 9,000 residents, has not reported a single case of coronavirus among the eighty people who have been tested, of which seventy-seven have returned a negative result and three are still pending, according to the sheriff’s office.
According to The Associated Press, businesses in the county will have customers stay six feet apart, restaurants will cut dine-in capacity by half, and at-risk residents will be asked to continue obeying the stay-at-home orders enacted by the governor. The guidelines will also be reassessed every two weeks.
“The governor himself has indicated that it is time to start opening in a staged and safe manner, and that will be different for different areas of the state,” Ned Coe, a county supervisor, told the news agency.
Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) told reporters during a press conference on Thursday that he was “aware” of the development, but declined to say if he would take any action against them.
“Remember, what we’re all connected to is each other and the health care, which is driven by local health directors and their determination of what’s appropriate and what’s not,” said Newsom.
“The stay-at-home order overlays all the orders in the state. You can go further, and be more prescriptive and restrictive, but when you loosen up and you loosen beyond the California [orders], then it’s in conflict, and there it becomes a challenge,” said the governor.
During the press conference, the governor announced that beaches in Orange County would be closed, a rebuke to local officials in Newport Beach voting to keep them open, but encouraged local officials to enforce the rule instead, maintaining that he didn’t want to be “heavy-handed.”
The governor previously floated beach closures this week in response to 80,000 people reportedly flocking to beaches in Orange County over the weekend, and the Police Chiefs Association circulated an internal memo on Wednesday evening saying statewide beach closures would be announced on Thursday.
As The Daily Wire reported, the beach closures Newson announced on Thursday ended up not being statewide, although the governor did mention his previous remarks encouraging people to avoid the beach.
“The virus is as present and prevalent as it’s ever been. It’s transmissible as it’s ever been. Nothing has changed in that respect,” Newsom said on Monday.
“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts,” he said, presumably referring to the wave of 90-degree weather that swept across parts of Southern California leading up to Saturday.
Newsom has not given a precise date for when the stay-at-home order will be lifted, simply saying that the easing will begin sometime in the next few weeks, but not be completely lifted for “high-risk work places,” including gyms, movie theaters, and hair salons, for “months.”
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