June 1, 2020

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Business owners, Republican leaders ask Newsom to relax order

Rural Northern California officials on Tuesday petitioned Gov. Gavin Newsom to accept their request to begin reopening their economies, despite a continued coronavirus stay-at-home order.

During a press conference at the Capitol, Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, said it was time for Newsom’s administration to ease restrictions for jurisdictions that have largely escaped the worst of COVID-19.

“The impacts had on people, they’re not just economic,” Gallagher said. “Those economic impacts become social impacts. We’ve seen rises in the cases of child abuse and mental health. Isolation at home breeds many of these types of issues.”

Newsom has largely denounced pleas for soft reopenings during his daily press conferences, arguing that Californians are still at great risk of contracting COVID-19.

The governor said Tuesday that retail businesses, manufacturers and certain offices will be in the first wave of workplaces that can reopen, which Newsom said he believes is “weeks, not months” away.

But, he said, California’s supply of personal protective equipment, testing COVID-19 capacity and its ability to trace infected people is still insufficient to allow broad reopening.

Six Bay Area counties extended their stay-at-home orders through May 1 on Monday.

Gallagher said the regions he represents would safely reopen businesses through a “data-driven, scientific plan.” In an April 24 letter to Newsom, Gallagher and representatives from six counties — Sutter, Butte, Tehama, Glenn, Colusa and Yuba — argued that their total 69 cases underscore an ability to get businesses back up and running in a safe environment.

But the local officials and business owners who joined Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, Tuesday during the press conference offered few details on what their reopening arrangements look like.

“These are going to help out a lot,” Sutter County Supervisor Mike Ziegenmeyer said, holding up a face mask, which he did not wear during the conference.

“We have staff literally working 12 hours a day, 15 hours a day, working on plans for a safe reopening,” Ziegenmeyer said. “I’m incredibly amazed at how our local counties have been dealing with the situation.”

Ziegenmeyer said the county “believes in safety” and will not reopen everything “100 percent.”

That idea was echoed by Sharlene Katz, owner of the Dancing Tomato Caffé in Yuba City.

Katz at the press conference said she and her husband were forced to furlough 51 employees on March 19. In the last month and a half, she said, the restaurant has suffered under the new “normal” of life spent mostly at home to avoid the coronavirus.

“We have a very empty 6,000 square-foot building right now,” she said.

Katz knows the restaurant will have to adapt under lifted restrictions, she said, and has been participating in sanitation webinars as part of the process to rebuild her business model.

“Just let us get cooking again, please,” Katz said.