By Leo Cabral
Updated May 12, 11:20 p.m.
After days of hearing public testimony, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously during an emergency meeting May 8 to rescind local public health orders.
The proposal put forth by Supervisors V. Manuel Perez and Karen Spiegel put an end to COVID-19 safety orders enacted by Riverside Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser, canceling mandatory social distancing, face covering, county wide school closures, restrictions on short term lodging facilities and golf course use.
Gov. Gavin Newsom moved California into Stage Two of reopening May 8. Individual counties can choose to either maintain restrictive measures based on local conditions or move through Stage Two quicker if they meet certain criteria.
The opening of campuses is not intended in Stage Two.
Wolde-Ab Isaac, Riverside Community College District chancellor, said the District will be operating under the governor’s guidelines and believes RCCD will be minimally impacted by health orders being lifted.
According to Isaac, because lectures have a high density of people, they will continue online through the summer and fall terms. Since social distancing can be accommodated in lab settings, Isaac said the District plans to work with the Riverside County public health officer to restructure labs that comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines.
If this is successful, Isaac said there is a possibility to hold all labs on campus, including those that were converted online, such as chemistry, biology and physics labs.
“We are still on our guard,” Isaac said about continuing to uphold social distancing, face coverings and sanitization throughout the District.
As of May 12 there were 5,248 COVID-19 cases and 225 deaths attributed to the virus in the county, according to the Riverside County Public Health website.
“Of course business people want to open their businesses back up because they have money to lose,” MJ Rodriguez, a public commenter who passionately opposed rescission, said at the Board of Supervisors meeting May 5. “But you know what I have to lose? My parents. My family. My friends. My siblings. My community. And I don’t think it’s fair. You’re putting profit over people.”
A crowd of people, many in favor of lifting restrictions, gathered outside the Riverside County Administrative Center on May 5 and could be heard over the live recording of the meeting.
“The people are asking to go back to work and to go back to normal life,” said Chuck Conder, Riverside’s Ward 4 city council member, adorned in American flag attire.
Chad Bianco, Riverside County sheriff, commented in favor of rescission as well. He said he will continue to refuse enforcing stay-at-home orders and would not “make criminals” out of individuals expressing their civil freedoms.
“There cannot be a ‘new normal,’” Bianco said. “We are talking about a country formed on the fundamental freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Any new normal is a direct attack on those basic rights which set us apart and make us the greatest country in the world.”
Many for and against rescinding restrictions pleaded to the Board of Supervisors to “do the right thing.”
“What about our health care professionals and workers,” asked Irma Flores, a resident of District two and business owner in favor of pandemic restrictions. “What a betrayal it would be to them. They are risking their lives day in and day out. How hard is it for people to wear a mask?”
The Board of Supervisors originally postponed their vote May 5, attempting to align their decision with the governor’s guidance but ultimately disagreed with Newsom’s update May 7.
In the Resilience Roadmap, the regional variance criteria for counties to progress through stage two require “no more than 1 case per 10,000 people in the last 14 days” and “no COVID-19 death in the past 14 Days.”
“That is unattainable by the county of Riverside and, quite frankly, unattainable by any urban county in Southern California,” Perez said.
The supervisors expressed a desire to contact surrounding counties to form a coalition that will confront Newsom with what they decide are more reasonable criteria for reopening the economy.