Business · Fresno · Hanford

Valley counties get to work to speed up reopening

The push for economic reopening in the San Joaquin Valley is likely to get a jumpstart by the end of this week.

The expectation: most Valley counties will have the necessary plans for reopening sent to the California Department of Public Health by the end of the week.

The other expectation: most, if not all, will contest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s health benchmarks that county officials have described as “problematic.”

Tuesday, Fresno and Kings County leaders announced that they will be submitting readiness plans to the California Department of Public health by the end of the week.

In conversation with The Sun, Fresno County Supervisors Chair Buddy Mendes and Supervisor Steve Brandau pointed out that select criteria for reopening create serious obstacles for nearly any metropolitan county in the Golden State.

The largest hurdles? The so-called “epidemiologic stability” criteria.

They require counties to have no coronavirus death within the past 14 days prior to submitting a readiness plan and require no more than 1 case per 10,000 residents.

Brandau said that the county, in its readiness plan, would join the growing chorus of the eight San Joaquin Valley counties and others, such as San Diego County, in contesting the validity of those metrics for reopening.

He added that Fresno County has found itself in a unique position when it comes to testing: while it is close to reaching the level of coronavirus requested by the state, it now has the necessary capacity to process tests at that benchmark level.

“Today, [we] are submitting a letter to the Governor saying we believe it is time to open fresno county all the way through Phase 2 – which will include restaurants,” Brandau said. “It will all be done responsibly.”

Kings County Board Chairman Doug Verboon echoed the sentiments of his counterparts in Fresno as it related to criteria, noting that

“The Governor’s matrix [of the impact of coronavirus] from the beginning was wrong,” Verboon said. “And we probably shouldn’t have shut down.”

Kings County lifted its own shelter-in-place order at the end of April, deferring to Newsom’s statewide order and rolling back active enforcement.

Verboon said that Kings County will get its readiness plan submitted to the California Department of Public Health on Friday afternoon.

Government lawyers for the county have interpreted the process for receiving a variance as being relatively simple: with no approval process specified by the Newsom administration, once the state’s Department of Public Health publishes a county’s readiness plan it is immediately active.

Given the timing of submission, that publication could occur as early as next week.

That’s good enough for the Valley County Supervisors hoping to restart their economies.

“People are tired and they’re getting anxious,” Verboon said. “We need to let people get back to work.”

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at [email protected]