‘No one knows what the state will do in retaliation right now, but hey, restaurants are open now.’
On Friday, Modoc County, a small Oregon-bordering county of 9,000 people, became the first California county to break with Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide lockdown orders and allowed non-essential businesses to reopen.
With no known COVID-19 coronavirus cases, a low population having a dramatically reduced chance of contracting the virus, and adequate precautions being used by residents, county officials decided that the county met the Governor’s conditions in his 4 stage re-opening plan to reopen. While the Governor’s plan was meant for statewide rather than local re-openngs, no action has been taken against Modoc County.
“We are utilizing his guidance of those plans and we have zero cases,” said Deputy Director of the Modoc County Office of Emergency Services Heather Hadwick in a series of statements on Thursday. “Our residents were moving forward with or without us. We really needed to create guidelines for them so that they could do this in the safest way possible. Somebody has to step up for rural California and we just happened to be the first.”
“We’re not in this at all to defy anything. We align with the plans. We’re just at a different phase in this because of where we are and how we live. COVID-19 looks very different in Modoc. And it’s not here.”
The reopening will also follow state health regulations that were under Governor Newsom’s 4 phase plan. Restaurants, bars, churches, and other non-essential businesses that reopen will have to follow 6 feet social distancing rules. Bars and restaurants will specifically have their capacity cut in half to allow for this. While not specified, masks will also most likely be used for some time after, even if on a volunteer basis.
“It’s actually quite brilliant,” noted restaurant consultant William Baines. “The county has met all of the marks to reopen according to the Governor, so they reopen using his words against him. I’ve talked with restaurant owners in similar counties who are hemorrhaging money right now due to the coronavirus, and they want to use this logic too.”
“No one knows what the state will do in retaliation right now, but hey, restaurants are open now. They’re keeping them safe. It’s amazing the little things like that. Those can help people really get back on with life. And right now they covered all the bases to do so.”
Other rural counties, most notably Lassen County, have also brought forth plans to re-open soon. Their plans are largely similar to Modoc’s, including the reasoning that small counties have experienced the pandemic far differently than the rest of the state and, also like Modoc, they have had no coronavirus cases.
Governor Newsom and state officials have yet to respond to Modoc’s reopening as of Friday afternoon. It is not known what action, if any, the state would take against the county.