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Some Riverside County supervisors and residents expressed frustration this week for the coronavirus-related shutdowns

Video – David Mariner, owner of The Village (previously known as Village Pub), took to Facebook Live earlier this week objecting the new two-block closure downtown by the City of Palm Springs, California which stretches from Tahquitz Canyon Way to Baristo Rd.

Over 90 percent of those who have been diagnosed with a case have recovered,” Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the county’s 17 acute care facilities are seeing their lowest number of admissions in five months.

Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the board Tuesday that the county “continues to see a precipitous drop in hospitalizations” connected to the virus.

“We’re continuing to see the trends move in a positive direction,” he said. “We’re watching and monitoring.”

After a month and a half of steady decline, hospitalizations hit a couple major milestones over the weekend in California overall.

Two weeks after falling below 4,000, the total number of patients on California fell below 3,000 on Friday for the first time since May 31. The next day, the state shed a net of another 121 patients, a decrease of 4% in one day, to its current level of 2,869.

There are only 12 days on record — dating back to March 29 — with fewer patients hospitalized from COVID-19 across California, all prior to mid-April.

Overall, the state has cut its hospitalizations by 60% from their peak in late July.

Barton acknowledged there may be lingering cases that fully materialize this week following Labor Day weekend gatherings, but he did not anticipate a significant jump.

Flu season combined with a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections this fall remains a concern, the EMD director said. He emphasized, however, that the county’s medical facilities are prepared.

The California Department of Public Health updated the county’s current tier standing on Tuesday, and though the county remains in the most restrictive purple tier under the governor’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” guidelines, the numbers have shifted, and if case rates hold at or below current thresholds, the county will qualify for the red tier.

That would mean a reduction in public health regulations that are currently keeping many businesses closed.

Tier 1 of Gov. Newsom’s “Blueprint” doesn’t allow for indoor dining. At 110-120F in the Coachella Valley outdoor dining can be potentially unsafe and unhealthy.

Riverside County is being penalized for lower testing numbers so they lowered the threshold from 7% to the “adjusted number of 6.7%. Despite the penalty according to the latest data, the county has averaged 5.8 cases a day per 100,000 population in the last week well below Riverside County “adjusted rate” of 6.7.

That still puts the county below the 7- per-100,000 level needed for tier re-assignment. What’s more, the testing positivity rate is now 6.4 percent, below the 8 percent threshold for re-assignment.

“We must meet the metrics for the red tier for two weeks before the state will move us into the red tier,” Executive Office spokeswoman Brooke Federico told City News Service.

Frustration Builds

Some Riverside County residents and supervisors Tuesday expressed contempt for the coronavirus-related public health regulations keeping many businesses closed, suggesting that open defiance of the governor and California Department of Public Health may be an option.

“We shut down our lifestyle, shut down our businesses,” Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said. “Now we’re in a weird area. Maybe defying the governor or regulations … may not be so strange in the future.”

Nearly 30 people spent an hour in the board chamber in downtown Riverside, alternately decrying the state’s ongoing public health restrictions or calling on the supervisors to end the local public health emergency declared in March because of COVID-19, and thereafter ignore the state’s actions.

“The ball has been dropped big time by the people who are here to protect us,” said a woman identified only as RT. “This has been a huge fail. You talk over and over about cases and tests while overlooking the foremost important issue — people. When do you realize that the virus is not worse than the ramifications?”

The board in early May rolled back a series of local emergency regulations, including requirements on face coverings, but weeks later, the state implemented the same requirements.

Kira Thompson, a fitness instructor who lost her job because of the state public health lockdowns, broke down in tears while trying to address the supervisors, saying she could not believe how easy it has been for the government to “take our freedom.”

Mike Noriega noted that this week marks the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, and said he found it difficult to believe that the document intended to control arbitrary government power seemed to be of little consequence now.

“Open Riverside County, and suspend the penalties that have been imposed on businesses,” Noriega said.

A number of speakers said the county had been serving cease-and-desist orders on private sector entities that opened their doors.

Operators and members of the Rock Fitness Climbing Gym in Wildomar were among those who complained about being forced to endure impacts on operations and live in constant fear of a court-ordered closure.

“Physical health promotes mental health,” said the facility’s manager, Jennifer McArron. “People are grateful for a place to come and maintain their sanity. We would like to keep our facility open.”

The county is in the “purple tier” of the state’s four-tier color- coded system announced last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It is the most restrictive tier, with gyms and other businesses largely prohibited from indoor operations.

The county was advancing into a wider economic re-opening in June under the governor’s previous “four-stage” de-regulation plan, which he replaced with the color designations.

When he unveiled his Blueprint for a Safer Economy in August, Newsom said it was necessary to “live differently … to minimize exposure for our health, for our families and for our communities.”

I think that all businesses are essential, not just some,” Steve Gardner told the board. “I think it’s very unfair of our governor to say, ‘well, this business is essential, and this one is not.’ People have bills to pay. People are losing their homes. Landlords are losing rent, not to mention all the other social problems that are occurring because of this shutdown. I would urge you people to imagine what it would be like to go three or four months without a paycheck and try to buy groceries.”

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries described the state’s requirements permitting Riverside County to move forward in the de-regulation scheme as “artificial.”

“They keep moving the goal post,” Jeffries said. “They’ve put us in that spot again of not being able to let businesses open. History shows a couple of times this is working against us.”

He wondered openly about telling the state, “we’re not going to enforce closures anymore.”

County staff replied that the state could demand a return of all funds for coronavirus relief measures, numbering in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We’ve far exceeded the key metric, and as soon as we got to the next step, the game changed,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “One in five people in the county have been tested (for COVID-19). We’ve done a good job testing. Now we have to exceed that? It’s very concerning to continue to wait (for reopening).”

So far the Board of Supervisors response has been to set up what they are calling “Listening Sessions,” to get more Public Feedback on the effects of their closures.

The first of the Board of Supervisors’ “listening sessions” to gauge the breadth of Riverside County business losses and economic turmoil stemming from the coronavirus public health lockdowns, as well as other issues, will be held on Sept. 29.

On Tuesday, the board approved a tentative schedule for the sessions, which Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Manuel Perez directed the Executive Office to arrange last month.

The first session is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 29, with additional sessions on the calendar for Oct. 6, between 5:30 and 8 p.m., Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at the end of the board’s regular meeting on Nov. 10.

The supervisors and Executive Office staff noted that the schedule may need to be modified, but the public will be notified in advance.

Other than the board meeting on Nov. 10, which will be at the County Administrative Center in Riverside, the locations of the other sessions have yet to be confirmed.

This coming Tuesday we should get word on Riverside Counties fate in moving to the less restrictive Tier 2. Stay tuned

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