The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday, Oct. 6, to submit a resolution to Gov. Gavin Newsom urging for more stable and consistent measures for reopening the county and its economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The resolution focuses on three specific requests:
• Make the process counties must follow to reopen businesses more stable and predictable.
• Attach the state’s testing metric to a fixed number rather than the ever-changing median testing number of all 58 counties.
• Allow communities that have experienced historically low rates of infection (such as those in the county’s rural areas) to reopen.
“The constantly changing criteria for reopening counties have been devastating to our residents and businesses,” said Board Chairman Curt Hagman. “Our county has adhered to all state public health guidelines. We have slowed the spread of COVID-19. We have lowered hospitalization rates, increased capacity and protected skilled nursing facilities. We have implemented extensive testing and tracing programs. And we have made critical investments in support of our local business, non-profits, schools and disadvantaged communities. Now we are asking the governor to offer consistent, stable guidelines and consider a few common-sense accommodations.”
Hagman noted that San Bernardino County, which spans 20,000 square miles, is the nation’s largest county by area — and many of its remote, rural areas have experienced very low rates of COVID-19 infection yet have suffered enormously from mandated closures.
“It really isn’t reasonable for far-flung communities with minimal infection rates to endure the same closures and restrictions imposed on more-populated urban areas,” Hagman said. “This one-size-fits-all solution produces lots of harm and little or no benefit.”
The supervisors also expressed concerns regarding changing criteria for reopening. In late August, the state unveiled its “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” which emphasized two major benchmarks for allowing businesses to reopen within a county: new cases of infection and the county’s overall positivity rate. However, several days later Newsom announced an adjustment to the blueprint that included factoring in median testing rates for the state’s 58 counties when determining case rates. The board is asking the state to base the testing metric on a fixed number rather than this ever-changing median.
“Frankly, by frequently modifying reopening criteria, the state complicates our ability to manage this crisis, forcing us to regularly change course and revise priorities — consuming time, incurring expenses and straining local personnel and resources,” Hagman said. “We have faithfully complied with an array of state mandates and are now asking the state to consider the impact of ever-changing rules.”