State OKs Merced, Madera, Stanislaus, Kings, Kern, Fresno counties to begin expedited reopening

Valley counties are beginning to move forward in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen the state from the coronavirus pandemic.

Six Valley counties are moving forward in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen the state from the coronavirus pandemic.

Only one – Tulare County – remains without clearance.


Merced County was the first of the batch to receive approval, on Tuesday night, to move deeper into Phase 2 of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-phase plan.

At Tuesday’s Merced County Board of Supervisors meeting, the board unanimously voted to move along in the reopening plan next week regardless of if the state gave its blessing.

Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke previously wrote a letter to the state saying that the sheriff’s office would not enforce the state’s stay-at-home order.

Madera and Stanislaus counties followed Wednesday morning with approval. By Wednesday evening, Kings and Kern counties received the state’s imprimatur.

Kings County Board Chairman Doug Verboon was elated at the news. It came five days after his colleagues voted to suspend enforcement of Newsom’s shelter-in-place order.

“This is good news for our county that we finally met the state’s criteria – even though the target was moving,” he said.

“I’m very happy to bring this back to the citizens in our county. They’re starting to regain some of their freedom.”

Thursday afternoon, following an announcement from Mayor Lee Brand that the City of Fresno was ending its shelter in place order effective Tuesday, May 26, Fresno County received approval from the California Department of Public Health.

“We’re excited that the state of california has recognized Fresno County’s progress and is allowing us to move forward deeper into Phase 2,” Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig said shortly following the announcement.

“We’re going to continue to press the state for local control and to have all businesses including churches and other religious organizations open quickly.”

Fresno County Supervisor Board Chairman Buddy Mendes was far more pithy immediately following the news.

“Finally,” he said. “What took so long?”

In a press conference on Thursday, the Board alluded to potential coordination between the City of Fresno and the State of California, given the close timing between Brand’s press conference and the state’s announcement.

“We have our suspicions,” Supervisor Steve Brandau said. “It could’ve been ‘factored in.'”

As for the most anticipated element of the reopening guidelines –the reopening of dine-in restaurants – Fresno County’s Chief Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau said that restaurants must submit paperwork, which includes agreeing to abiding by various health-safety guidelines, to Fresno County’s Public Health Department before reopening. 

Once reopening paperwork is submitted, restaurants can reopen immediately. 

Counties have the full flexibility to immediately allow restaurants to re-open for dine-in customers, open in-store retail shopping, child care facilities, and schools, offices, among other businesses.

In the City of Fresno, restaurants will be able to open immediately after submitting their reopening paperwork with the Fresno County Department of Public Health. All other advanced Phase 2 businesses in Fresno will be eligible to fully reopen on Tuesday, May 26.

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