California County to Defy Statewide Lockdown, California City to Sue the State Over Order to Close Beaches
You can't go to a California beach in May because there's a flu somewhere and you'll die
Modoc County — one of California’s most desolate jurisdictions with no known coronavirus cases — says it will allow bars, restaurants and churches to reopen Friday despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide lockdown.
“We’re not in this at all to defy anything. We align with the plans. We’re just at a different phase in this because of where we are and how we live,” Heather Hadwick, deputy director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services, told POLITICO on Thursday.
Modoc officials submitted a plan last week to Newsom outlining their proposal to lift the statewide lockdown order, but the governor has given no indication he intends to free individual counties from his statewide restrictions. The county issued a strategic reopening plan this week that would allow bars, restaurants, churches and non-essential businesses to reopen indoor operations with proper social distancing — all banned under Newsom’s current restrictions.
The plan still recommends that all at-risk residents — those 65 and older or who have underlying health conditions — remain at home. Restaurants and bars would have to cut their maximum capacity in half.
The rural outpost, like many counties far from the coast, diverges from the California known nationally. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats more than 2-1, while 71 percent of voters chose Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Maintaining physical distance is easier in the county of 9,600 residents, located in a 4,200-square-mile corner of northeast California that borders Oregon and Nevada.
“It’s empty, and that’s on a normal day. If there’s one or two people in line at the grocery store, that’s odd.” she said.
Newsom on Thursday acknowledged he’s received requests from Modoc and several other communities requesting to ease the restrictions, but set “the next few weeks” as the timeline. He said counties may be “more prescriptive and restrictive” than the state guidelines, but looser measures will conflict with the state order.
“Nothing would please me more than pleasing those local elected officials and to help them help all of us move through this pandemic,” he said. “But we’re not out of the woods — no part of the state, no part of this country, few parts of the globe have been immune to this virus.”
Hadwick admitted the county will be reopening against state orders, but said the governor “didn’t say he was challenging it” in his remarks. If the state cracks down on Modoc County, “we would work with him to try to figure something out that would work with our county.”
Last week, lawmakers and local leaders representing six rural Northern California counties — Yuba, Colusa, Tehama, Butte, Sutter and Glenn — sent a letter to the governor requesting permission for “a careful and phased reopening of our local economies.”
Other counties, including Lassen County this week, have submitted plans for reopening. Their argument is that the less densely populated areas have had very different experiences with the pandemic than other parts of the state, including the Bay Area counties that this week announced plans to continue their shelter-in-place restrictions through the end of May.
Lassen, Modoc, Trinity and Sierra are the four California counties without a single confirmed coronavirus case.
“Somebody has to step up for rural California and we just happened to be the first,” Hadwick said.
While the majority of businesses in the county are already deemed essential, Hadwick said it would be different for others — be it the one-chair barber or the few small restaurants — to recover financially if the restrictions continue.
“Covid-19 looks very different in Modoc,” she said. “And it’s not here.”
Huntington Beach intends to sue the state after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would be closing all Orange County beaches.
The Huntington Beach City Council voted 5-2 to file a lawsuit against the State of California, with Councilmembers Barbara Delgleize and Kim Carr opposing the move.
While Newport Beach did not take any action Thursday night, Councilman Kevin Muldoon suggested that the city follow Huntington Beach and sue the state, claiming that Orange County had “flattened the curve.”
A recent Voice of OC story shows coronavirus hospitalizations in Orange County have been steadily increasing over the last month, leading to questions over whether or not the county has “flattened the curve.” [Still ridiculously below capacity and with half-empty hospitals. 200 patients in a 3 million county is a trifle.]
“I would like to call for a special council meeting,” Muldoon said. “That would allow us to join the city of Huntington Beach, or any other Orange County cities and seek all legal means available to fight the arbitrary and unconstitutional exercise of power by the governor, that would take away control of our local beaches.
“That would essentially hand our prior decision to keep the beaches open into the trash bin.”
Earlier today, County of Orange officials downplayed any legal action, with Supervisor Don Wagner stating that he preferred to work with the state through negotiation rather than litigation.
After Huntington Beach announced they would be suing the state, Wagner said he thought this may be the first of many lawsuits in a text to Voice of OC.
“I continue to believe that the county has no legal standing to sue the state but I know lawsuits from individuals and businesses in Orange County are coming,” Wagner said. “I would hope the governor will not fight a destructive legal battle, but instead listen to local leaders, who are in close consultation with our own health care professionals.”
“I’m disappointed that the governor’s making decisions based on a few photos rather than on the reality of the situation on the ground.”
Both cities met in closed session to discuss their response to the governor’s action, with no public discussion on the items in Huntington Beach and limited comments from several Newport Beach councilmembers.
Both cities also expressed confusion over the governor’s order and what it would require from them.
At the beginning of Huntington Beach’s meeting, Mayor Lyn Semeta stated they had not received the precise language of Newsom’s order.
“We have not received any written directorate from the state regarding the governor’s announcement,” Semeta said.
Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill said the directive was not entirely clear in some aspects.
“What we will anticipate is that our police department and our fire department will spend significant time endeavoring to determine what the directive is calling for and will do their best job to make sure we are conducting education and to the extent the directive is clear enforcement as well,” O’Neill said.
Earlier this week on Tuesday, the city council decided to keep Newport’s beaches open with a greater police and lifeguard presence for the upcoming weekends despite Newsom’s remarks.
On Thursday, Newsom chose to only close Orange County beaches after seeing photos of Newport Beach from the past weekend, where an estimated 40,000 people came to the beach on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re going to do a hard close in that part of the state. Just in the Orange County area,” Newsom said during a news conference on Thursday. “The images we saw … were disturbing.”
Newport Beach officials insist that the photos were misleading and that city officials were enforcing social distancing on the beach.
Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis and Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said a majority of the beach goers they observed on April 24, 25 and 26 were spread apart. The city shared aerial shots of the beach taken on April 25 that showed more people spread out.
The rest of the state’s beaches will remain under the control of local governments pending further decisions by the governor.
Source: Voice of Orange County