Modoc County — near the Oregon border and home to about 9,000 people, became the first to defy the state’s shutdown orders.
The county is “moving forward with our reopening plan,” said Heather Hadwick, the county’s deputy director of emergency services, who added that the county has no reported COVID-19 cases.
Hadwick said the county had not heard from the governor about its reopening plan, but she asserted it aligns with Newsom’s indicators for reopening. Schools were not opening Friday, but it was an option for districts that can accommodate preventative measures, she said.
“We are utilizing his guidance of those plans, and we have zero cases,” she wrote. “Our residents were moving forward with or without us. We really needed to create guidelines for them so that they could do this in the safest way possible.”
At Country Hearth Restaurant and Bakery in the small town of Cedarville, three customers came in for breakfast, general manager Janet Irene said. She said her regular customers had been very cooperative with orders that had allowed her to only serve takeout since March.
“Since we’re a sit-down restaurant, people were constantly asking to be able to sit in the restaurant, and it was really, really difficult during this time to deny that,” she said.
The county had notified Newsom of its plans and never heard back from him. His office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Elsewhere, a variety of businesses from restaurants to hairstylists in rural and more populated areas have opened their doors in individual acts of defiance.
The moves underscore Newsom’s challenge as the state enters its seventh week under stay-at-home orders, with only businesses deemed essential allowed to operate. Gyms, bars, shopping malls, restaurant dining rooms and sports arenas all remain shuttered.
Newsom hinted that change was coming soon. He has previously outlined a phased approach in which the economy would gradually return to normal.
But at the same time he warned of troubling signs, including a lack of testing in rural areas that might be concealing a lurking threat from the virus. He recognized the right of residents to protest, saying he welcomed diverse viewpoints, but also warned that crowding posed a health threat.
Newsom also confirmed the obvious: With its once-roaring economy in shackles and millions jobless, the state will face a funding shortfall that will run into billions of dollars.
“Billions in surplus, in just weeks, tens of billions of deficit,” he said.
Police across the state appear to have taken a largely hands-off approach with protesters, despite the fact they were violating stay-at-home requirements and not following physical distancing recommendations. The fear is the virus can be spread in close quarters by people who don’t known they’ve contracted it.
Associated Press reporters Amy Taxin in Huntington Beach, Kathleen Ronayne and Cuneyt Dil in Sacramento, John Antczak and Stephanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Olga R. Rodriguez, Janie Har and Juliet Williams in San Francisco contributed reporting. KQED's Katie Orr contributed to this report.