RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — The Riverside County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 4-1 in favor of a self-directed public health deregulation plan that would allow business sectors to reopen outside of the state’s color-coded tier system.
The county said it would still adhere to state guidelines on coronavirus mitigation and would work with the California Department of Public Health on criteria for safe reopening.
“We’re not fully open today,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “We’re still going right along with the state (on health safety measures).”
Joining Spiegel in approving the plan were supervisors Kevin Jeffries, Manuel Perez and Chuck Washington.
Jeffries, who noted that the county has not been overbearing in its enforcement of state mandates, said the action effectively removes the county from a state enforcement role.
“Cities can (still) proceed with enforcement,” he said. “And businesses should know that if they don’t adhere to state guidelines, an employee can complain to Cal OSHA. So businessman or woman, make your decisions.”
The key difference between the county’s newly adopted plan and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s system is that the county, instead of working through the tiers for graduated reopening, would instead make rolling interpretations of when certain sectors can reopen in consultation with local health officials.
According to the state, the county could lose $114 million in funding from the state — including money for the Homekey homeless mitigation programs and additional federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act funding — though supervisors questioned the veracity of the threat.
“If there’s proof of a direct threat from Sacramento, I’d like to know about it,” Hewitt said. “We’re drowning right now. Businesses are lives and livelihoods. How much money are we losing every week?”
The move comes the same day the county continued to report an increase in COVID-19 cases, threatening the county’s move from the state’s red to orange tier.
Health officials reported another 129 cases and six deaths, bringing countywide totals to 60,867 cases and 1,244 deaths, though hospitalizations have continued to level-off.
“We have stabled off in hospitalizations,” Bruce Barton, Emergency Management Department director, said. “Our ICU (bed usage rate) has flattened.”
There were 142 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Tuesday, 42 of whom were being treated in intensive care units.
And while the county’s positivity rate had fallen to 5% — down a full percentage point in three weeks — the positivity rate had increased to 7.6 per 100,000 residents.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)