YUBA CITY — Some businesses that reopened in two Northern California counties that defied the state’s stay-at-home order are not following required safety measures, and the top health official for the area said Wednesday it’s “imperative” they do to avoid a resurgence of Coronavirus and return to stricter rules.
The new local health order that took effect in Sutter and Yuba counties this week allowed diners in restaurants as well as opened far more retailers than approved by the state. It’s the most permissive yet in the nation’s most populous state, but it still required that indoor businesses have employees and customers wear masks.
On Wednesday, the local mall became the first in the state to reopen during the virus outbreak. Hundreds of shoppers — many not wearing masks — strolled through Sutter Yuba Mall. A long line quickly formed at the nail salon, a business not allowed to open under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order.
A day earlier, Newsom said it was a mistake for the counties to allow so many businesses to reopen and urged county leaders to “do the right thing.”
On Wednesday, Yuba-Sutter Public Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu did not change her order. But within hours of the mall opening, she sent a warning letter to the business community saying “it has become clear” many businesses were not complying with rules that also include surface cleaning, hand sanitizer and posted signs for customers.
“These were not suggestions,” Luu wrote. “It is imperative to make all necessary adjustments to the way we conduct business in our community immediately so that we do not run the risk of seeing a resurgence and need to go back to stricter orders.”
The mall was reflective of growing unrest across California among shuttered business owners and cooped-up residents weary of Coronavirus restrictions that have been in effect since March 19. And it is a test of how far the Newsom administration is willing to go to enforce a mandatory stay-at-home order that, until recently, had been nearly universally accepted.
Newsom did not address the mall opening during his Wednesday news conference. Representatives from his office did not respond to a request for comment.
The governor has promised to loosen the statewide stay-at-home order on Friday, with new rules scheduled to be released Thursday on which businesses can be open and under what conditions. He has said his plan will not allow for dine-in restaurants or hair or nail salons, but he has promised to negotiate with local governments on potential variances.
Across the state, desperate businesses are beginning to open anyway. Most but not all have avoided any government interference.
Spencer’s Cafe, which has three locations in Bakersfield, opened after Kern County rescinded its local health order. Many local restaurant owners interpreted that move as allowing dine-in customers.
Spencer’s offered sit-down breakfast and lunch service Tuesday before it was forced to go back to only supplying curbside pick-up orders.
“We didn’t even make it a full day,” said Lisa Trino, who manages one of the locations. “We had tried, and the government said no.”
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said some businesses in his city could open on Monday, including electronic and camera stores, furniture stores and auctions, The Fresno Bee reported.
Yuba and Sutter counties allow in-store shopping and far more types of businesses, including gyms and fitness studios, salons, spas and tattoo parlors, as well as libraries, playgrounds and non-contact school sports.