2 Northern California counties set to reopen despite stay-home order

Two counties in Northern California were set to allow many businesses to reopen Monday as a direct challenge to Newsom’s order.

Yuba and Sutter counties north of Sacramento would join Modoc County, which began allowing hair salons, churches, restaurants and the county’s only movie theater to reopen Friday as long as people stay 6 feet apart.

Modoc County Sheriff Tex Dowdy said the zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Modoc’s 9,000 residents was a deciding factor in the allowing for a “staged, safe” reopening. No problems were reported over the weekend, officials said.

Yuba and Sutter counties are not only much bigger with a combined population of about 175,000 people — many of whom commute to jobs in the capital region — but have had 50 confirmed cases of the disease and three deaths.

Jesse Villicana, the owner of Cool Hand Luke’s steakhouse in Yuba City, said 25 employees who were laid off during the stay-at-home order returned to work Sunday to help prepare for the reopening. He was eager to welcome customers back into the bar and dining room but wary of the slow return to business as usual. Customers must sit a booth apart, meaning he can only fill half of the restaurant.

“We were running at 80% capacity before all this. It’s going to be tough to pay all the bills,” Villicana said.

Elsewhere, a variety of businesses from restaurants to hairstylists in rural and more populated areas have opened their doors in individual acts of defiance.

Newsom acknowledged the building economic anxiety while repeatedly teasing the possibility the state could begin relaxing aspects of the restrictions this week.

“We are all impatient,” the governor said during his daily briefing Friday.

But the governor also noted that while hospitalization statistics are heading in a better direction, the state still has a growing number of infections and deaths. More than 2,200 Californians have died from coronavirus and nearly 55,000 have been confirmed to have it, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because of a shortage of testing.