SAN BERNARDINO — The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors kicked off their regular meeting Tuesday morning with a tumultuous update on the COVID-19 pandemic and the governor’s newest guidelines on reopening businesses.
After hearing from county staff that the county does not meet the governors guideline’s for reopening later stage two businesses, they scheduled a special board meeting on Thursday afternoon to vote on whether they will move forward without the state’s approval.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that counties across the state will be able to move into the next phase of reopening, the later phase of stage two. Later stage two reopenings include dine-in restaurants and in-house shopping.
Newsom waived some of the previous guidelines for reopening, including having no COVID-19-related deaths in 14 days, and replaced them with more lenient restrictions.
Now, counties can reopen if:
• Fewer than 8 percent of their coronavirus tests are coming back positive.
•Their hospitalization rates and ICU bed rates remain steady.
•They perform an adequate amount of testing and contact tracing.
“We estimate roughly 53 of the 58 counties would be eligible to move into this phase,” Newsom said.
San Bernardino County meets many of these requirements but is not conducting enough testing or contact tracing to be allowed to reopen per the governor’s order.
County Chief Executive Officer Gary McBride said county staff will be working to immediately increase testing and contact tracing with the hope of pushing the county into the approved bracket, but this may take some time as it requires the hiring and training of new staff .
The county may also have to make more permanent testing facilities, instead of relying on mobile testing.
McBride could not estimate how long it would take for the county to be eligible to reopen.
Board Chairman Curt Hagman urged county staff to move quickly since the roadblocks stopping the county from reopening are now based on the county’s ability to respond and not on the number of positive tests and patients.
“If we are not able to self-certify on our side because of the county, then we’re going to have a very unhappy community,” Hagman said.
The other board members agreed that they wanted to move forward urgently but Supervisor Robert Lovingood said that he was done waiting. He urged the board to vote to open businesses now, without the state’s approval.
“Our small businesses have sat and waited,” he said. “They have waited as long as they can. We do not have two weeks to sit and wait.”
Hagman reminded Lovingood and the rest of the board members that, if they move forward without state approval, the county could lose state funding and business owners could lose their licenses.
Businesses that have opened without the state’s approval in other counties in California have lost their cosmetology and liquor licenses.
“What would be the consequences for our businesses if they lose their liquor license because we allow them to open up but they lose their license from the state?” Hagman said. “I’m afraid our actions might put our business leaders at risk.”
Despite this, Lovingood and 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Rowe asked for a special meeting, but special meetings can only be called by the board chairman.
After some arguing, the members agreed to wait until they were briefed by county staff at 4 p.m. to officially call the meeting.
Hagman agreed to tentatively schedule a special board meeting for 4 p.m. Thursday. They are expected to review staff recommendations and call for a vote to reopen businesses in San Bernardino County.