Reopening fever grows hotter after Atwater, Kings Co. vote to reopen

The Valley’s restlessness over shelter-in-place is boiling over, with two local jurisdictions voting to reopen their economies on Friday.

The San Joaquin Valley’s restlessness over shelter-in-place is boiling over, with two local jurisdictions voting to ignore Gov. Gavin Newsom and reopen their local economies on Friday.

The City of Atwater, in Merced County, voted Friday to declare itself a sanctuary city to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order. The move clears any local restrictions on businesses from operating, allowing a wide variety of businesses – including churches – to reopen.


In a similar move on Friday, the Kings County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to authorize all businesses to reopen.

“If you can justify being open, just like Walmart, Target, Costco, Lowes, and Home Depot, feel free to open,” said Kings County Supervisor and Board Chairman Doug Verboon told KSEE 24.

The move follows Kings County submitting a request sent to the California Department of Public Health for variance from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order.

Due to two key criteria – regarding the number of new cases per day and coronavirus deaths within a two week window – many Valley counties have noted that success in receiving a variance is limited, at best, and have sought altered criteria due to minimal hospital utilization.

Businesses within Kings County began reopening on Saturday, following the vote, including gyms.

“Everything’s open and they still have to follow state guidelines and they have to be able to justify if the state comes down,” Verboon told KSEE 24. ” But we’re not going to stand in their way.”

In both Atwater and Kings County, some key businesses – notably bars, salons, and barbershops – have hesitated to reopen, as they are regulated by the State of California, and reopening may put their respective licenses in jeopardy.

“We’re not looking to jeopardize anyone’s business. That’s a license you hold with the state of California. So, we don’t want to cause any harm there, use your best judgment,” Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton said to ABC30.

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