The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to accelerate the reopening of certain facilities and activities shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vote was 4-1, with Supervisor Nathan Fletcher opposed, to send a formal letter to Newsom in support of a pilot program to further open such facilities as youth and sports clubs, salons, fitness clubs and outdoor religious services.
Fletcher said he believes the county is ready to responsibly reopen businesses in “Stage 2” consistent with the guidelines Newsom outlined Monday.
However, “given we have not even opened `Stage 2′ businesses, I do not believe it is time to call on the state to allow the immediate opening of `Stage 3′ entities including higher-risk activities like gatherings and businesses with high exposure, intensity and duration of risk,” Fletcher said.
Newsom has said he believes the county will be ready to move into “Stage 3” at the beginning of June, Fletcher added.
Newsom said Monday county governments should have more discretion in terms of reopening certain types of facilities.
Supervisor Jim Desmond called the pilot plan “a step in the right direction.”
Desmond said if the county doesn’t allow for more facilities to reopen, the health crisis will only expand based on how the stay-at-home mandate is affecting people and unemployment will increase.
The move won support from numerous business owners who called in during the teleconference meeting.
Other residents who called in urged the board to take any reopening slowly to avoid another major outbreak in cases and consider how the pandemic has impacted vulnerable communities.
Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county’s chief executive officer, said that until Newsom’s team has reviewed data associated with Stage 2 openings and is assured there have been no significant spikes in coronavirus cases “then, and only then, will he declare the state has entered into Stage 3.”
“We remain committed to abiding by the state’s order,” she said, adding that she believes San Diego County is uniquely qualified to meet some Stage 3 criteria because of its practices.
“I cannot say the governor will approve this pilot,” Robbins-Meyer said, but if he does even approve part of it, the county can move forward.
The board voted after hearing an update on the county’s efforts to contain further spread of the coronavirus. Health officials said the county is ready to move further into Stage 2 of the California Resiliency Roadmap.
Robbins-Meyer said the county meets Stage 2 acceleration criteria. According to the county, that criteria includes:
— Less than 5% of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations over a seven-day period or no more than 20 COVID hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days;
— Fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days or less than 8% testing positive in the past seven days;
— A capacity to be able to test 1.5 per every 1,000 residents and at least 15 staff per 100,000 county population trained and available for contact tracing, and;
— Hospital capacity for a possible surge of 35% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 cases in addition to providing usual care for other patients.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the county’s decision was welcome news.
“We have a real opportunity to demonstrate that leadership and open businesses such as hair salons,” Faulconer said. “Small businesses are ready to get back on their feet.”
The board’s actions also won praise from state Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee.
“The last eight weeks have taken a devastating toll on small businesses, their workers and families throughout the region,” Jones said.
“After some prodding by a lot of us, including Supervisors Desmond and (Kristin) Gaspar, the full board is finally starting to `get it.”’