Central California county wants Newsom to lift stay-at-home order for them before others

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Some county and local officials in central California are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow them to begin lifting lockdown measures, arguing that coronavirus infections there have slowed significantly compared to cases in more populated areas.

San Luis Obispo County, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, pointed to its large stockpile of personal protective equipment, its high testing capacity and a new site that could accommodate care for more than 900 ill patients, should there be a second wave in COVID-19 cases.

“This is not like flicking on a light switch, it’s more like operating a dimmer,” San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson said Tuesday. “We’re going to bring it up and see if it works, and we do have mechanisms to go back to a certain level of restriction.”

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POINT MUGU, CA - APRIL 11: Visitors to Pt. Mugu ignore no parking as well as coronavirus and social distancing restrictions on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in Point Mugu, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

POINT MUGU, CA - APRIL 11: Visitors to Pt. Mugu ignore no parking as well as coronavirus and social distancing restrictions on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in Point Mugu, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

In a letter to Newsom Monday, seven mayors, two county supervisors and a state assemblyman made the request to reopen some non-essential businesses, and public parks and beaches, with people wearing masks and social distancing, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“This bipartisan group of local elected leaders asks that you allow our county to exercise local authority to implement a phased reopening of our local economy over the next three weeks,” the letter said. “We have been successful in our efforts to manage the virus’ spread, and we have put in the work and made investments to prepare for any type of surge or second wave.”

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“We have asked our residents to take these desperate measures because of the unique risks posed to the broader community by this virus so that we can flatten the curve and allow our healthcare capacity to catch up,” the letter continued. “Now we need to move to the next phase, which is economic recovery.”

But San Luis Obispo, known for its wine tasting in Paso Robles and scenic tourist spots in Morro Bay and Pismo Beach, could become a magnet. Bay Area and Southern California residents still under lockdown could make the three- to four-hour drive to a newly reopened area, creating a resurgence in infection.

Silicon Valley and Los Angeles County are hotspots in the state. Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo County, home to some 283,000 residents, recorded 134 confirmed cases, with one death this week, the Times reported. Only two positive COVID-19 patients are occupying hospital beds in the county this week.

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POINT MUGU, CA - APRIL 11: California State Parks ranger David Gunn, left, warns visitors to Pt. Mugu that parking is not allowed due to coronavirus and social distancing restrictions on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in Point Mugu, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

POINT MUGU, CA - APRIL 11: California State Parks ranger David Gunn, left, warns visitors to Pt. Mugu that parking is not allowed due to coronavirus and social distancing restrictions on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in Point Mugu, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County, however, saw a record increase in fatalities, with 297 new deaths over the past seven days. That compares to 193 deaths recorded the week prior. A total of 663 people died from the coronavirus in Los Angeles County as of Tuesday evening.

California recorded at least 35,845 confirmed coronavirus cases, with at least 1,326 deaths by Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.  A statewide stay-at-home order has been in effect since March 19.

In his press conference Tuesday, Newsom acknowledged that California was flattening the curve, but said local officials should dial it back and not undermine the state’s “collaborative spirit.”

“None of these local health directives can go further or, rather, go farther backward than the state guidance,” the governor said.

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Meanwhile, Ventura County revised its stay-at-home order Saturday, allowing bike shops, car rental offices and golf courses to reopen, as well as some gatherings to resume. Sutter County also requested the governor lift the lockdown.