A group of officials from Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties banded together Monday to call for the reopening of California nearly seven months after the state shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking from Riverside, county Supervisor Jeff Hewitt cited testimonies from local business owners, workers and parents who have expressed their struggles as many businesses and campuses remain restricted.

“We know our constituents better,” Hewitt said, referencing Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The state places Riverside County, along with Orange and San Diego counties, just under the most restrictive tier of a four-phase reopening system.

The red tier means the counties have reported about four to seven new cases per 100,000 residents daily. With limits, they’re allowed to let restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, churches and other businesses offer indoor services, as well as permit some on-campus learning.

But the limited reopenings have proved inadequate, officials said.

“Ten percent capacity doesn’t do it. Business plan [of] 25% opening doesn’t do it,” San Diego County Supervisor Gene Desmond said. “Restaurants and people should be able to get back to work.”

San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk underscored revenue losses from the cancelation of events like Coachella and Stage Coach.

“That’s a big portion of our economy. … We look at other states that are open for tourism like Hawaii, New York. California can do this,” Kotyuk said.

Supervisor Don Wagner of O.C. echoed his fellow officials.

“Keeping our community safe is what all of us are dedicated to do,” Wagner said. “We believe we can open safe.”

The multi-county coalition pushed people to sign their petition on opencalnow.com, which they said have garnered more than 8,000 signatures over the last two weeks.

Still, county health officials continue to emphasize caution and getting tested for COVID-19.

State Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly is set to offer an update on the pandemic in California on Tuesday, including the reopening status of counties, some of them anticipated to move into a less-restrictive tier.

Newsom on Monday acknowledged the encouraging numbers reported in some regions. But he warned that decreases in cases are starting to slow down.

“If we go back to our original forms, we’re not cautious, if we’re not vigilant, if we’re not wearing our masks, if we’re not practicing social distancing, physical distancing and hand washing and hygiene, these numbers can start to tick back up,” the governor said.


By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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