Protesters continue to push California reopening, but Gov. Newsom urges caution

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With continuing protests surrounding California’s stay-at-home order and local governments asking to reopen their economies before statewide restrictions are lifted, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said he wants to keep the entire state on a similar timeline for reopening.

Newsom’s statements came as dozens of demonstrators descended on the state’s capitol in Sacramento, after the governor says they were granted a permit by California Highway Patrol.

“My understanding is the protest that CHP has supported has physical distancing that was allowable on the basis of people being in their vehicles and not congregating as a group,” Newsom said during his coronavirus briefing Monday.

The governor told reporters he would reach out to CHP for details on why the permit was approved.

The Sacramento Bee said its questions to CHP were referred to two other agencies before the state Senate president pro tempore’s office said it would look into whether the permit was valid.

At least 100 vehicles circled the Capitol, horns blaring, as another 200 protesters marched with signs protesting the shutdown that has paralyzed the economy. Many marchers did not wear masks and crowded together, defying recommendations to minimize the spread of the virus.

The protest was organized by a group called Freedom Angels that has previously organized rallies against California legislation to restrict vaccine exemptions. While it was organized as a call to reopen businesses and communities, some protesters questioned whether they would be forced to be vaccinated or tested for immunity to return to work or schools.

“Tracking + tracing = tyranny,” read one protest sign.

It was the latest in a series of recent protests nationwide after President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted messages that some saw as encouraging protests against stay-at-home mandates.

Meanwhile, Newsom said he approved Ventura County’s plan to reopen golf courses and parks, but signaled other restrictions aimed at slowing the virus’ spread would not be relaxed before the state itself does so.

“There is a cap in terms of the loosening at the local level,” Newsom said. “The cap is an expectation that they do not go beyond those state orders.”

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged residents not to go to neighboring Ventura County, where continuing restrictions include social distancing and reduced parking.

When asked about a letter from San Luis Obispo County leaders requesting to begin “phased reopening” of their local economy over the next three weeks, Newsom warned that “this virus knows no jurisdiction.”

“The worst mistake we could make is making a precipitous decision based on politics and frustration that puts people’s lives at risk, and ultimately sets back the cause of economic growth and economic recovery,” he said.

The governor said he understands the anxiety of not just the protesters, but “40 million Californians staying at home saving people’s lives.” But he asked anyone who wants to express free speech to “do so in a way that not only protects your health, but the health of others.”

San Luis Obispo County argues that its cases aren’t increasing like in other areas; on Monday, the county reported no new cases of COVID-19.

The governor said he’s “seen many letters stacked up around this conversation.” He promised to release Wednesday an updated plan for reopening that’s still based on where the virus is spreading, and whether there’s a reduction in transmissions and hospitalizations.

“Those are the determinants: Science, health,” he said.

Newsom said the six-prong statewide roadmap will be updated every Wednesday to “give you a sense of where we are,” and it will include geographic breakdowns so people can “understand where they as individuals — not just we as a state — are in relation to the progress made.”

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