California Gov. Newsom expected to ease reopening rules for certain counties
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected early this week — possibly Monday — to announce he plans to make it easier for expanded economic activity in certain counties, Sonoma County officials said Sunday.
The move would clear the way for a quicker reopening of more business sectors, including area restaurants for in-person dining, in Sonoma County and other areas that don’t yet meet the state’s current stiff standards.
Such an announcement from the governor, predicted by two county supervisors, would come in the wake of strong pushback for more than a week from elected county officials throughout California, where just 22 of 58 counties have gotten the green light from the state to reboot business and industry gutted during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m expecting to hear the governor make announcements that are going to accelerate opening in areas like Sonoma County, where we feel that our public health criteria exhibits all of the necessary controls for a managed opening,” said supervisor James Gore, also vice president of the California State Association of Counties.
The business resumptions permitted are expected to include in-person restaurant dining with social distancing and other public health protocols, shopping malls for curbside sales, among others.
The number of local COVID-19 cases and deaths, and other metrics drafted by state health officials meant to measure counties’ abilities to prevent the unchecked spread of the novel coronavirus, have kept Sonoma and other counties representing 95% of the state’s population from advancing through the governor’s four-part state reopening plan.
The state guidelines thus far allow for one virus case per 10,000 residents and no deaths in the past two weeks. They also prescribe coronavirus testing, contact tracing and local hospital surge capacities for counties.
That could change this week, Gore said, referring to the anticipation of Newsom relaxing some of those tough-to-achieve benchmarks and placing more emphasis on some other markers unclear Sunday night.
Such a gubernatorial shift would be welcome news for Sonoma County supervisors, still poised to approve Monday morning a blueprint for reopening portions of the shuttered local economy by seeking a waiver from current state case and testing targets the county hasn’t attained.
Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s top public health official, acknowledged Friday that Sonoma County does not meet the state’s stringent criteria for a faster-track business sector resumption, and it’s unlikely the state would grant a request from the county to waive some of the requirements.
Nonetheless, at the supervisors’ request Mase was working with county officials on such a waiver.
As that work has progressed behind the scenes, Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin said Sunday that discussions have cropped up about state action from the governor.
“I heard from (Department of Health Services) Director (Barbie) Robinson that the governor may be revising his criteria,” said Gorin, the chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. “I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but it’s possible that we could, under the revised guidelines, open up a little more broadly.”
Gorin said she doesn’t think county attorneys and health officials, including Mase, the county’s health officer, have wasted time to draft plans for a quicker reopening and submit the proposal for state review because it has started a “good community conversation.”