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Supervisors Split In Rejecting Plan To Reopen County By May 1

San Diego County Board of Supervisors in chamber on Feb. 19, 2020.

Credit: County of San Diego

Above: San Diego County Board of Supervisors in chamber on Feb. 19, 2020.

County supervisors Tuesday voted down proposals by one of their colleagues to reopen businesses and outdoor recreational areas that were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Supervisor Jim Desmond proposed that beaches, parks and golf courses should be open as soon as possible, said the county should draft criteria for reopening gyms, salons, restaurants and large warehouse businesses, and lobby Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow the re-opening of businesses in the county on May 1.

The vote was 3-2 against, with Desmond and Supervisor Kristin Gaspar in favor. Along with Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, Gaspar recently called for reopening the region's beaches.

After the meeting, Desmond said it was important for county leaders to "move beyond the essential phase and move towards the safe phase in businesses and business practices."

Desmond's suggestions came during up update on efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, along with its future impact on the fiscal year 2020-21 budget and property tax revenues. The board unanimously approved spending $40 million to meet the county's tax fund reserve requirements as mandated by the state.

RELATED: With Good Weather, Relaxing Of Coronavirus Rules, San Diegans Enjoy Parks For First Time In Weeks

Desmond said county government stands at a crossroads, facing economic despair because of business closures, while also seeing a lessening number of new COVID-19 cases. "How do we keep using the tools to keep fighting the virus, while also reviving the economy?" he asked.

Newsom recently announced the state could ease coronavirus restrictions only if hospitalization rates were flattened and widespread testing were available.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said decisions to loosen any restrictions should be based on facts — not politics or emotion.

"We're dealing with a health crisis on the back of an economic crisis," Jacob said, adding that until the county solves the first one, it can't solve the second one.

"It's a real balancing act in how we move forward," Jacob said.

Jacob also said she appreciated Desmond's intent and supports criteria to open certain businesses, but added she didn't believe the county "can put a firm date on it."

Desmond responded that it was "disingenuous" to say that those wanting to reopen outdoor facilities are basing their decision on politics or emotion.

"To me, waiting for the government to set the criteria is `big government' getting in the way," he said, adding that businesses around the county employ thousands of people, and "need to get going sooner than later."

Desmond said that he has received more than 200 proposals from business owners on how to re-open in a safe manner. He also played a short video from business owners who said there are ways to preserve public health while allowing normal commerce to resume.

Board members also heard from numerous residents who implored the county to let golf courses reopen or stressed that frontline workers need better protection gear from the virus.

Several who called in to speak at the meeting became emotional as they described how the lockdown has affected their personal financial situation or businesses. Others proposed that the county appoint paid youth ambassadors to spread the word on coronavirus-based resources to their peers and those in marginalized communities.

Supervisor Greg Cox said the county was working in conjunction with municipalities throughout the region to create plans for parks, beaches, golf courses and other public outdoor spaces to open -- with some catches.

Any plan to reopen — being considered only after the April "month of action" has ended — would include gradual phases of openings including social distancing, facial coverings and a maintained ban on groups outside of the same household.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher warned that opening the county's public spaces up with no restrictions too soon would cause a second spike of cases and deaths — and that's only if the county has reached the peak of cases and deaths, which he said is not clear.

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