Riverside COVID-19 Restrictions Pushback Continues
By Dianne Anderson
Depending on which side of the political divide they stand, leaders and residents question if reopening cities and counties too soon is a good or bad idea, or if businesses can withstand staying closed too long.
For now, Riverside County is on hold for whether their restrictions will become more relaxed in the weeks ahead.
Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington said the county, in collaboration with four other counties, reached out to the California Department of Public Health to ask for a re-evaluation to revisit some of the statewide restrictions.
Governor Newsom has outlined his plan to reopen the state in four phases, which includes zero coronavirus deaths over a two week period.
Washington feels it would be nearly impossible for the county to meet the requirement within several months, and probably not before the end of the year.
“I think for urban counties it’s going to be difficult to meet the metric that the Governor is laying out for us, that [one new case in 10,000] and zero deaths for two weeks before we can move further into phase 2,” he said.
While Riverside County continues to work hard toward the metric, and has increased testing capacity, he said there has been pushback on both sides. Some are upset that the county rescinded most of the more restrictive health orders.
“Some felt that we shouldn’t be doing that. Others felt that it was not enough, that we should just defy the state altogether,” he said.
He worries that if the county defies the government, it would have disastrous health results, and also funding impact on the county and cities.
“There would be huge repercussions for the county as it relates to funding from the federal government through the state,” Washington said.
It would impact state licenses that businesses need to operate legally, and the state could threaten to take some of those away. He said the county is trying to work with the Governor, demonstrating significant hospital capacity with testing at nearly 3% of the population has greatly improved.
But some residents and businesses in Temecula and Murrieta argue that their numbers are much better than Moreno Valley and Riverside, and should be able to reopen more quickly.
Washington, who has lived in Temecula 20 years, agrees the numbers are relatively small compared to other cities, but he said it’s important to be safe.
They’ve met the hospital surge, and they have shifted some of the focus to nursing facilities to train and equip them with PPE.
“But there isn’t a way to create a containment plan for individual cities within a county. We’ve got to do this as one county,” he said.
For Del Roberts, a longtime community advocate, the way to open businesses should consider safety first. He doesn’t think the numbers are even close to where it should be.
“I will be one of the last ones to take my mask off,” said Roberts, adding that he is just laying low lately, and will continue to isolate as Covid 19 continues.
“The people I associate with, we can read. People are still dying,” he said. “A half an hour ago, a family in Riverside I know called me and said she has it.”
The pandemic has struck the Black and Brown community with a vengeance, but Roberts said that it’s a no brainer for his family. He fits the demographic and he doesn’t want to give it, or get it, from anyone.
Lately, he also hasn’t been to church because it’s too hard to physically distance when seeing old friends.
“If I go to church I know there’s going to be some hugging going on. It’s just an automatic thing,” he said.
As a workaround, his church, Faith Temple International, recently teamed up with Peacemakers church to hold service in the parking lot.
“The parking lot was full, about 60 or 70 cars,” he said. “This is sending some people crazy, but it’s sending a lot of people to their knees.”
Faith Temple International, along with Riverside Peacemakers Ministry, both on the same grounds, partnered to bring the event to the community.
Pastor Duane Sims said they plan to keep it going. Everyone stayed in their cars and adhered to all the six-foot Covid-19 distancing.
“We were trying not to hug,” Sims said. “It’s hard, especially when you get to the church parking lot. Many are getting church right up to their front doors.”
They gathered for about 90 minutes, played worship songs, gave testimonies and had prayer. It’s been well received.
“The outreach to the neighborhood, they say keep doing it, I can have church on my front porch,” he said.
Until further notice, they will hold church every Sunday at 6:00 p.m. at the parking lot. The church is also staying informed through the county’s public health office as they have a lot of high-risk elderly attending.
He doesn’t want to see restrictions end too early.
“To be honest, I’d rather them stay at home until we know everything is safe and secure. Until then, we’ll do what we can, we’ll have church on the internet and church on YouTube. We’ll bring it to you until this is over,” Pastor Sims said.
For more information on parking lot church, see http://www.riversidefaithtemple.org/