Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

After more than nine hours of discussion and public comment by residents and public officials on both sides of the issue during a Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, May 5, the supervisors ultimately decided to push back a decision on a proposal to rescind mandates by the county’s top health official.

The decision to continue the passed unanimously.

The supervisors will hold an emergency meeting to decide how to move forward on the issue at 1 p.m. Friday, May 8, in order to first hear from California Governor Gavin Newsom about Phase 2 of his plan to reopen California.
Riverside County Board of Supervisors 4th District Chairman V. Manuel Perez and 2nd District Vice Chairman Karen Spiegel originally proposed a plan to rescind mandates extended by Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer of the Riverside County University Health System.

Had they approved the proposal, the county would then drop Kaiser’s orders and align itself with the mandates coming from Newsom’s office in Sacramento. It would have meant the end of county mandated face coverings but would have left many others that line up with Newsom’s orders, in place.

But after hours of testimony from residents, county staff and supervisors themselves, county leaders made the decision to hold off on making any changes before Friday.

On Monday, Newsom announced that he will be relaxing some state restrictions Thursday, May 7, signaling the start of Phase 2 of his plan to reopen the state to commerce on a limited basis.

County residents gather in front of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors chambers ahead of the meeting. Valley News/Bill Donohue photo

According to The Associated Press, “the plan outlined Monday includes a range of retailers that would be permitted to go back to work including clothing stores, sporting goods and florists.” 

In order to open and conduct business, a set of guidelines and restrictions will need to be met. 

Newsom’s announcement came on the heels of a string of protests throughout the state, including a demonstration Saturday, May 2, at the Temecula Duck Pond, at which many urged the governor to drop restrictions and to put people back to work. 

On Friday, the supervisors launched an economic recovery task force to provide recommendations to the board on restarting the local economy and preparing to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we continue to fight against the silent enemy, coronavirus, metrics demonstrate that we can now balance that th turning the corner toward economic opportunity,” Perez said. “An important part of our efforts is making sure we are workforce ready and business-ready once the state moves into the next phase in its roadmap. I envision this local economic recovery team as identifying resources, policies, and opportunities that can help the local economy bounce back sooner in the 4th District and Riverside County as a whole.” 

The board formed this task force, consisting of representatives from all five supervisorial districts, with business and community leaders from throughout Riverside County to study how to support businesses in their recovery efforts. The task force is expected to be in place for 18 months and will identify both short and long-term strategies to assist the local economy.

As of Tuesday, May 5, 58,878 people have been tested for the coronavirus at the five RUHS-run sites in Blythe, Indio, Lake Elsinore, Perris and Riverside. The number of cases in the county rose to 4,454 with 100 new infections.

The county was also seeking to expand testing facilities to include locations in the San Gorgonio Pass and the San Jacinto Valley.

As of press time, 215 county residents were hospitalized with the virus and seven were being treated in intensive care units. The total number of people who have recovered stood at 1,997.

At the local level, the county reported that Hemet had the highest number of cases in southwest Riverside County with 195 people diagnosed with COVID-19 and 13 deaths. Temecula and Canyon Lake are reporting 100 and 10 cases, respectively. Both cities are reporting no deaths.

Murrieta reported 103 cases and four deaths while Lake Elsinore had 113 cases and six deaths. 

Menifee reported 112 cases, Wildomar reported 49 cases and San Jacinto reported 81 positive cases. Those cities reported three deaths each.

The county reported the unincorporated areas of French Valley, Anza, Winchester, Valle Vista, Lakeland Village and East Hemet at 35, six, one, 11, 25 and 16 cases, respectively. There were no deaths reported in the unincorporated communities as of press time Tuesday.

Last Thursday, Superior Court Executive Office officials announced that eight Riverside County courthouses would remain closed to the public for another two weeks.

City News Service reported that presiding judge John Vineyard signed a directive keeping the closures in effect until May 15, as they had been set to expire a day later. 

Under the initial order sent forth March 16, most operations at the Banning Justice Center, Corona Courthouse, Riverside Historic Courthouse, Hemet Courthouse, Moreno Valley Traffic and Smalls Claims Court, Palm Springs Courthouse, Riverside Family Law Courthouse and Temecula Courthouse were suspended.

Public access is restricted as well. 

City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.