SAN BERNARDINO — Hoping to open restaurants and shops for inside customers early next week, San Bernardino County staff have asked the governor’s office for permission to move farther into reopening.
The county board of supervisors directed staff to submit the request during a special meeting Thursday.
The special meeting was called after the county received word from the governor that more counties would be able to open businesses. They believed that San Bernardino County would not be approved.
Gov. Gavin Newsom loosened his guidelines for reopening on Monday, allowing counties to reopen businesses if less than 8 percent of their coronavirus tests are coming back positive, if their hospitalization rates and ICU bed rates remain steady and if the county performs an adequate amount of testing and contact tracing.
San Bernardino County met many of these requirements but, on Tuesday, the county was not conducting enough testing or contact tracing to be allowed to reopen per the governor’s order.
County Chief Executive Officer Gary McBride said staff would be working to immediately increase testing and contact tracing, but it might take some time to hire and train staff and establish more testing sites.
On Thursday he came back to the board and reported that the county had increased its testing and advised that the county ask to open since by the time the request is approved, he expected to meet all requirements.
By Friday, San Bernardino County was officially doing enough testing and contact tracing to meet state requirements; it has the capacity to employ 340 contact tracers and test about 3,300 people a day.
Board Chairman Curt Hagman thanked the county public health staff for all their hard work and noted that he, like many others, was frustrated at how long it was taking the county to reopen, but he said the board cannot change state law.
“I’m very frustrated. My businesses are frustrated as well,” he said. “But we can’t sit there and change the state law just because we demand it.”
The other board members agreed and directed staff to submit the letter to the governor’s office in the morning. McBride said that he is expecting an answer back within 24 hours. At latest,he hopes to be able to open up businesses by early next week.