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Amid Economic and Mental Health Concerns, Riverside County trying to reopen after Labor Day.

Amid Economic and Mental Health Concerns, Riverside County trying to reopen after Labor Day.

Amid Economic and Mental Health Concerns from an Extended Lockdown, Riverside County trying to reopen businesses just after Labor Day…

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Riverside County officials have outlined a plan starting after Labor Day ( September 8) to gradually reopen businesses and places of worship, forced to close beginning June 30.

Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser on June 30 to order bars to close. A day later, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a wide range of businesses in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list — including Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties — to shut down indoor operations, including indoor dining, to counter an anticipated surge in coronavirus hospitalizations.

In an Aug. 12 letter to state public health officials, County Executive Officer George Johnson said the three-phase plan, which needs state approval, builds on steps the county has taken to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Proposed Phased Reopening Plan
Phase I – September 8, 2020

Allow the resumption of indoor services in accordance with State Guidance:

• Dine-in restaurants, wineries, and breweries
• Places of worship
• Non-essential indoor office
• Personal Care (barbershops, nail salons, hair salons, body art, etc.)

Evaluate health metrics and effects of Phase I reopening before proceeding to Phase II.

Determination to proceed to Phase II shall be made by the County CEO, serving as the Director of Emergency Services, in consultation with Public Health and other County Policy Advisors.

Phase II – September 22, 2020

Allow limited indoor activities in accordance with State Guidance:

• Wedding receptions
• Group meetings and events
• Indoor shopping malls

Evaluate health metrics and effects of Phase II reopening before proceeding to Phase III. Determination to proceed to Phase III shall be made by the County CEO, serving as the Director of Emergency Services, in consultation with Public Health and other County Policy Advisors.

Phase III – October 6, 2020

Allow the resumption of indoor operations in accordance with State Guidance:

• Gyms
• Movie theaters
• Bars

FUTURE PHASES TO BE DETERMINED BY STATE GUIDANCE

The letter also spells out the strain the virus and the ensuing economic shutdown has put on county residents and public services.

“The intent of this Advocacy Platform is to actively engage with (the California Department of Public Health) on an earnest discussion of the steps that we can take together to achieve positive outcomes and plan for the gradual re-opening of our society and economy in a measured and safe way, one which balances the many aspects of public health needs that we collectively are tasked to address,” Johnson wrote in the letter.

  • Hospitalizations are down significantly — for the first time since June, fewer than 300 people are currently hospitalized with coronavirus in Riverside County. Death rates, are about 13 deaths being reported per day in August, versus an average of less than eight per day in July.
  • Johnson’s letter includes charts and figures showing how the county’s economy and public health have worsened since the pandemic started.
  • From January to May, the county saw a 16% increase in drug overdoes compared to the same period in 2019, one chart read.
  • The county lost more than 100,000 jobs in March and April
  • Close to 40% of renters aren’t confident in their ability to pay next month’s rent
  • The number of county residents served by CalFresh — food stamps — grew 22% between March and June.

“We must work on a way to gradually reopen our economy and society while still maintaining the focus on safe practices for our long-term future,” county spokeswoman Brooke Federico said via email.

“The current environment of closures was never meant to be long-term, and is not sustainable, so we need to engage the state in a conversation of how we gradually, and safely, scale that back.”

COVID-19 State Advocacy Platform
(August 10, 2020)

Riverside County believes in a holistic approach to the Public Health of our communities, which values the physical health and safety, mental health, livelihood, and overall well-being of our 2.5 million residents. As such, this Advocacy Platform sets forth our request to the State to form an effective partnership with Riverside County to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in a measurable, socially equitable, and sustainable way.

1. Implement a comprehensive Community Action Plan focused on improving our COVID-19 health outcomes over the next 30 days. The attached plan creates a comprehensive blueprint to promote safe practices including wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and proper hygiene.

2. Allow Riverside County to gradually reopen our economy in a safe and measured way, with constant consideration of the ability of the local hospitalsystem to handle a surge in COVID positive patients, as shown on the attached Phased Re-Opening Plan and in accordance with established State Sector Guidance. The proposed plan is risk based and allows for evaluation of health outcomes before proceeding through the phases.

3. Grant Riverside County flexibility to interpret State Sector Guidance so that we can create a shift towards a culture of safety that promotes voluntary compliance with safety measures, builds community support, and focuses enforcement on the highest public health and safety priorities.

4. Authorize Riverside County to be the primary provider to the State of all hospital data collection and reporting. There are several different Federal and State partners requesting data from our local hospitals and it has caused some confusion about which entity needs what information by when in which format. Making Riverside County the hub, a position in which we normally sit and as outlined in the California Public Health and Medical Emergency Operations Manual, will make the process go more smoothly.

5. Modify the monitoring list metric for positivity rate to 14%. With the ebb and flow of testing and resulting supplies, greater priority is being given to symptomatic individuals, resulting in a positivity rate that is not truly representative of community spread.

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