After two days of some of often emotional testimony from hundreds of everyday people, Riverside County supervisors Friday night, May 8, asked the public health officer to lift three of his public health orders imposed to fight the novel coronavirus.
The board voted 5-0 to ask Dr. Cameron Kaiser to rescind a mandate for residents to cover their faces and practice social distancing while in public. They also lifted orders restricting short-term rentals to COVID-19-related business and allowing golf courses to reopen with conditions — they’d still be allowed to open under state guidelines.
The board also asked Kaiser to keep in place an order closing schools until June 19, but to remove higher education institutions and vocational schools from the order.
County spokeswoman Brooke Federico noted that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order is in still effect, but she deferred to the state as to how it applies to vocational schools, colleges and universities.
Jesse Melgar, the governor’s press secretary, said in an email that “there is no statewide school closure order in effect,” but nearly all schools have closed.
A woman listens during the supervisors meeting in Riverside on Friday, May 8, 2020. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
The board’s motion also has language to strongly encourage the public to cover their faces and practice social distancing when practical.
The motion also incorporates a proposal from Supervisor Kevin Jeffries to have the county set up “best practices” guidelines to help businesses reopen. Jeffries’ proposal also calls on the county to work with labor unions to talk about reopening county buildings, which have been closed to the public since March.
Kaiser is expected to modify the school closure order and rescind the other three orders Saturday, May 9, Federico said, adding that those actions will be posted on the county public health website.
Supervisor Jeff Hewitt wanted to go a step further and have Riverside County join other California counties that are defying Newsom’s mandates imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“As fun as that would be, I don’t know how we get rid of somebody else’s authority,” Jeffries said.
Hewitt replied: “We have a moral authority to save our dead and they’re dying out there … (Newsom) is destroying so many lives … There are times when people have to say enough is enough … I will not be complicit in following any of the governor’s orders.”
Supervisor Chuck Washington called for working with other counties to push back on the governor’s benchmarks, announced Thursday, for counties to speed up their reopening timetables. Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and others called the standards, including a requirement for counties to have no COVID-19 deaths for two weeks, unreasonable.
“I’m not willing to risk $100 million of your taxpayer dollars just because it might make me feel good in the moment,” Washington said.