San Bernardino County wins state approval to start reopening restaurants and retailers

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San Bernardino County on Saturday became the latest in California to get the green light from state health officials to reopen restaurants and retail stores.

A pedestrian walks under a sign for the city of San Bernardino in this undated photo. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A pedestrian walks under a sign for the city of San Bernardino in this undated photo. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

On Friday, the county asked the state’s health department if it can move further into Stage 2 of California’s 4-stage plan — when dining inside restaurants and shopping inside stores can resume with some restrictions. County officials said San Bernardino won approval Saturday.

With a population of more than 2.1 million, the county has reported 4,315 known cases of COVID-19 and 176 deaths.

“San Bernardino County businesses and residents worked very hard and made tremendous sacrifices to make this moment possible,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman said in a statement.

San Bernardino follows the counties of Ventura, Orange and Riverside in reopening these businesses to consumers for the first time since the statewide shutdown took hold about two months ago.

To reopen, counties must meet certain requirements from state health officials. Among these are ensuring enough hospital resources and capacity are available for a 35% surge in COVID-19 cases and reporting less then 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days.

A full list of requirements for county preparedness are on the state’s COVID-19 website.

“This virus is still very present throughout our county, state and nation, so we must remain vigilant by physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and washing our hands often,” Hagman said. “But our goal of minimizing illness and building the capacity to protect the vulnerable, serve the sick, and track the virus in our communities has been achieved.”

Later stages of California’s reopening plan will resume operations at higher-risk settings such as hair and nail salons, movie theaters, bars and libraries, and eventually, nightclubs and larger venues like concert halls.

Citing a two-week decline in state hospitalizations and expanded testing, Gov. Newsom relaxed coronavirus-related restrictions across California last Monday. The previous state guidance, given just over a week prior, required that a county report no deaths and no more than 10 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.

That requirement and others are no longer in current state health standards.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom has said.

California has joined every other state in the U.S. in reopening some parts of the economy even as many health experts warn against the risks.

A influential model from the University of Washington — frequently cited by the White House — has predicted California will see nearly 7,000 COVID-19 deaths through August.

That estimation, given on May 18, marks a rise of more than 1,000 fatalities from a May 12 prediction. Researchers attribute that change to the number of deaths, known cases, testing rates and available information on social distancing.

While researchers are predicting more deaths in California, the number of projected deaths has actually fallen in states such as Florida, Missouri and North Carolina, according to the May 18 update.

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