RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) – Facing a projected $100 million revenue shortfall, Riverside County officials voted Friday to downgrade several public health measures previously put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning Saturday, face coverings and social distancing will no longer be required — only strongly recommended. Restrictions on short term rentals and golf course operations have also been lifted.
Following guidelines from Gov. Gavin Newsom, Riverside County joined other counties to allow retail businesses to have curb-side pickup starting Friday.
But residents packed the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Friday afternoon, with many calling for officials to further reopen for business – some even became emotional and broke into tears.
Other residents – many of whom called in to the meeting – voiced support to continue the shutdown.
The Board of Supervisors said Friday that it isn’t their call, and they must follow Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan for businesses. However, they did make clear that they think the stay-at-home orders are killing local economy and sending families into crisis mode across the state.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco told the board approximately 2,300 residents out of 2.5 million in the county have contracted the virus and that as sheriff, he would no longer enforce county directives to shut down businesses.
“Not only do we not have the resources to enforce unreasonable orders, I refuse to make criminals out of business owners, single moms and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights,” Bianco said.
“The original projections and fears that caused these orders to be put into place have been proven wrong….. There cannot be a new normal, we’re talking about a country formed on the fundamental freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he added. “Any new normal is a direct attack on those basic rights which set us apart and make us the greatest country in the world.”
The motion was introduced by Board of Supervisors Chair Manuel Perez, who last week said he wanted all county orders lifted amid evidence that the threat of the novel coronavirus recedes and the need for economic recovery grows.
County officials have asked department heads to submit cost-cutting plans by May 13 as Riverside County CEO George Johnson warned earlier this week the county faces $100 million in revenue shortfalls.
On Friday, Riverside County health officials reported 61 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,817. Officials also announced 12 more deaths, bringing the death toll to 204.