Small California County Ready to Defy Newsom, Open Businesses

One of California’s sparsely populated jurisdictions, Modoc County, plans to allow hair salons, churches, restaurants and it’s only movie theater to reopen Friday, becoming the first county in the state defy Governor Gavin Newsom’s mandate, Politico reports. 

“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.

Modoc officials wrote to Newsom last week outlining their plan, which officials said meets the guidelines outlined by the governor for stay-home orders to be eased out in phases, but they haven’t received a response. He said he was not worried the state might take legal action against the county for violating Newsom’s order.

The county’s reopening plan would allow bars, restaurants, churches and non-essential businesses to reopen indoor operations with proper social distancing , actions that are banned under Newsom’s current restrictions.

According to the plan. business owners in the county of about 9,000 that spans 4,200 square miles (11,000 square kilometres) need to ensure customers remain 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and asks restaurants to cut their capacity by half. Those 65 or older or with underlying health conditions are still required to remain at home.

“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.” Hadwick said.

Ned Coe, a cattle rancher and county supervisor, said Thursday that the county bordering Oregon has no confirmed COVID-19 cases and after consulting with health officials, the Board of Supervisors voted to reopen, Mercury News reported.

“Just as our physical health is vital for our citizens, so is the mental health and the economic health of our citizens,” Coe 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.”

Last week, six other sparsely populated rural counties in North California, Sutter, Yuba, Butte, Colusa, Tehama and Glenn, along with the region’s Republican state lawmakers sent a letter to the governor requesting permission for “a careful and phased reopening of our local economies,” but seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The counties together claim fewer than 100 of the state’s more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Statewide, more than 1,900 people have died.

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.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met, and married an American journalist and moved to D.C from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A in Graphic, Media and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: Getty Images

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