SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY — The county Board of Supervisors reviewed state guidelines for allowing businesses to reopen Thursday and although the county does not meet those requirements, supervisors said if the state will not grant an exception, they may move forward on plans to allow businesses to open for inside service anyway.
On Thursday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom released standards that counties must meet to be able to move deeper into stage two of the reopening process. The early phase of stage two is opening for curbside pickup; the later phase allows dining inside restaurants and shopping inside stores.
Requirements for going deeper into stage two include having no COVID-19 related deaths for 14 days and no more than one case per 10,000 people in the last 14 days. San Bernardino County does not meet these requirements.
Newsom announced in a press conference Monday that the state will be moving into stage two of the stay-at-home order allowing “low-risk” businesses including clothing stores, florists, bookstores and sporting goods stores to reopen for curbside pickup. Manufacturing business and warehouses are also allowed to reopen with operational changes.
In this conference he announced that some California counties that were less affected by the virus would be able to push forward into the later phase of the stage two opening and, at the time, San Bernardino County supervisors and officials believed that they would be a part of this group of counties.
However in Thursday’s press conference, California Health and Human Services Secretary laid out this regional variance criteria and the San Bernardino County board of supervisors said it was much stricter than they expected. Along with requiring no recent deaths and a low number of cases, the criteria also requires minimum daily testing of 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents, at least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, the ability to temporarily house at least 15 percent of the county residents experiencing homelessness and the ability to make disinfectants and protective gear available for essential workers.
“Those are the triggers for reopening the local flexibility,” said county Chief Executive Officer Gary McBride. “Absent of us being able to attain those we have to go along with what the state is doing.”
McBride said that San Bernardino County is averaging at two deaths per day and over 70 new cases a day; the governor's criteria would require that the cases be reduced to about 16 a day.
Supervisor Dawn Rowe, who represents the 3rd District including the Morongo Basin, noted that the county's numbers do not comply with the governor’s criteria, in part, because skilled nursing facilities in the county have been so greatly affected.
“When you remove those numbers it's a brighter outlook for us to consider,” she said.
This criteria does not affect the opening of the first phase of stage two businesses, only the second phase of stage two businesses.
In response to this news, the county has decided to draft a full plan with input from the San Bernardino County Public Health Department and county staff to send to the governor's office for approval, despite not meeting the requirements for further reopening.
The plan, which they said they are hoping to be able to move forward with by May 15 at the latest, may include opening restaurants for dine-in, churches and other businesses the county supervisors deem as low-risk. Businesses that are approved for opening will be given safety guidelines for staff, like increasing hand washing and spacing out people inside.
Businesses that comply will receive a placard for the front of their business, similar to a food grade placard, that says they have been approved by the county for opening.
The plan is still being drafted and will be approved by all board members before being submitted to the governor’s office.
Supervisors agreed that, if the governor's office does not approve the plan, they may move forward anyway. However, they hope to get permission and plan to work with the governor’s office to get permission before moving without state approval.
“At this time we are not doing anything that has not been approved by the state,” said board chairman Curt Hagman. “We will ask permission first and well see how the governor's office responds to that based on our numbers.”
The county will host its weekly press conference at 11 a.m. Friday, May 8, to go over plans and to further explain their criteria for businesses reopening on Friday. This conference is available for viewing at https://www.facebook.com/SanBernardinoCounty/.