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published on May 20, 2020 - 12:33 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

Two counties have announced they are ready to open back up — one of them with the state’s grace and the other on its own.

Madera County has met state criteria to move into Gov. Newsom’s phase 2.5 and can open up a new flurry of businesses beginning today, according to a news release.

Restaurants can allow dine-in, retail stores can open and swap meets can now gather under the rules.

On Monday, Gov. Newsom updated the requirements to advance beyond state guidelines for reopening. Counties with fewer than 25 positive cases per 100,000 residents can begin to “move at their own pace,” according to Newsom. Having no more than a 7% increase in hospitalizations also qualifies a county.

Most recent data has Madera County with 21 active cases and two deaths related to COVID-19.

The following categories of business can now operate under Madera County:

—Dine-in restaurants

—Retail stores

—Swap meets

—Office-based businesses (teleworking still encouraged)

—Limited personal services (Pet grooming, carwashes, landscaping)

—Outdoor museums and open gallery spaces

—Childcare

In the South Valley, Tulare County supervisors voted to reopen businesses after being singled out by the governor for climbing infection rates.

Supervisor Dennis Townsend proposed to not prosecute businesses who want to open at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

“What we were doing was by responding to the emergency was creating another emergency — an economic emergency,” said Townsend.

Supervisor Kuyler Crocker seconded the motion and Chairman Pete Vander Poel gave the third vote needed to approve. Supervisors Amy Shuklian and Eddie Valero dissented, wanting more time to discuss the legality of the motion.

Administrators with Tulare County, as well as Health and Human Services and the Board of Supervisors, had created a recovery plan to submit to the governor two weeks ago.

The vote comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom specifically said Tulare and Kings counties were not ready to move beyond phase two, naming the impact coronavirus has had on skilled nursing facilities in the region.

Officials from several counties throughout the state requested that skilled nursing facilities not be counted among positive cases. Testing has quadrupled in Tulare County, said Townsend. And 15-16% of tests come back positive, almost double the state’s threshold of 8%. When the number of tests of people in skilled nursing facilities is removed, that number goes down to 9-10%, said Townsend.

“Because we weren’t going to meet those metrics anytime soon, we decided we would need to take our own action,” he said.

Since the announcement Tuesday, supervisors have already been threatened by the state. Townsend said he had been contacted by The Office of Emergency Services this morning threatening that federal and state emergency funding and reimbursements to the County would stop.

Supervisors contacted their congressional representatives about the legality of withholding federal funds.

With the coming Memorial Day weekend, Townsend worries there will be a spike in new cases. He urges Tulare County citizens to be safe and practice social distancing.

“We’re trying to be prepared for it and not be irresponsible with our new found freedom,” he said.


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