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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 5/20/20, PM



Counties Pushing Back


As restaurants and stores were cleared to open for customers in more than half of California's counties, today, one county tried to push even further, allowing businesses to open without the state's permission.

Tulare County's board of supervisors voted 3-2, yesterday, to move further into the state's four-stage reopening plan than is allowed. That means nearly everything — barbershops, churches, movie theaters, and more — could reopen, though county officials said businesses should adhere to state guidelines on social distancing and other health measures.

In response, Governor Gavin Newsom's administration threatened the county's ability to access state and federal disaster funds. That’s similar to a warning it gave recently to three northern counties that defied state orders.

Earlier this week, Newsom set guidelines that will allow most counties to reopen restaurants for dine-in and other services like child care and even schools if they can meet certain benchmarks on hospitalizations, case loads and testing. But it still bans the opening of large gathering spaces.

Tulare County officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Their county is home to 442,000 residents in the Central Valley, and it just reported a spike of 101 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths. Its nursing homes have particularly been having problems.

Among those counties given the go-ahead to open as of today were Napa County here in the Bay Area; Merced County in the Central Valley, and San Luis Obispo, which is the southernmost county to be approved. Each is taking its own approach to easing restrictions.

Meanwhile, San Diego County supervisors voted, yesterday, to let it be a test case for more rapidly reopening businesses and allowing more gatherings and recreational options.

The plan would let California's second-largest county jump ahead to stage three in Newsom’s four-stage plan and reopen such things as apartment building swimming pools along with gyms and hair and nail salons, all with strict safety rules. It also would green-light outdoor religious services with restrictions and bring back youth sports but without games or spectators.

Newsom has made it clear that no county can move into stage three yet but also has said he wants to give more discretion to county governments and what they believe best reflects the interest of their residents.