With Virus Deaths Rising, Yucaipa & Chino Hills Seek To Aid County Contest COVID Precautions

The San Bernardino County governmental structure’s quixotic effort to interpose a legal challenge to Governor Gavin Newsom’s precautionary mandates relating to the coronavirus pandemic was given moral support by the cities of Yucaipa and Chino Hills in recent weeks, though their gestures seemed unlikely to move the California Supreme Court to rebuke the state, as the cities’ legal filings corresponded with an intense surge in the virus that resulted in record numbers of individuals in the county testing positive for the condition during a one-week and a two-week period in December, punctuated by 32 deaths recorded in the county between yesterday, January 7, and today.
On December 6, a three-week stay-at-home order was issued by Newsom, calling for a host of businesses that involve close contact among customers and business operators to be shut down as of December 7. The order was renewed on December 28.
On December 14, a lawyer retained by the county at the behest of the board of supervisors, Robert Tyler, lodged a filing with the California Supreme Court, seeking a suspension of the stay-at-home-orders and other restrictions to San Bernardino County. Tyler sought for San Bernardino County an exemption from the regional guidelines pertaining to itself as well as Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and a decree from the Supreme Court that the county would be able to ascertain what restrictions should be applied to residents and businesses within its jurisdiction without interference from the governor. Tyler pursued that request despite San Bernardino County at that time and currently experiencing the highest rate of coronavirus contagion in the Golden State’s 58 counties.
Meanwhile, between December 14 and December 21 inclusive, 134 deaths of county residents were attributed to the disease. That included 52 deaths over a 48-hour period on December 19 and 20. Deaths wholly or partially attributable to COVID-19 in San Bernardino County reached their apex on December 16, when 63 people died. The death rate in December eclipsed that of the summertime coronavirus surge, when, during the seven days of August 2 to August 9, inclusive, 129 people died.
Local officials have complained that the order is threatening the livelihoods of a vast number of business owners, and that the restrictions have already forced many entrepreneurs out of business permanently, and is on the brink of doing the same to a substantial number of others.
On December 17, the City of Yucaipa announced in a press release that the Yucaipa City council “sent a letter to Governor Newsom expressing concerns about the State’s stay-at-home orders and the impacts to the city’s restaurants and other businesses.” The letter in part read, “The city council respectfully requests that outdoor dining be reopened immediately statewide, given that there is no medical evidence to support the need to shut down outdoor dining, and in fact some contact tracing studies indicate that all types of dining contribute to only about 1 percent of the COVID-19 cases nationwide. We believe all businesses are essential, because they create jobs and provide the funding necessary to support the essential services that provide the quality of life needs and safety for our residents.” The letter said “this economic disaster will inevitably deepen the crisis of homelessness, raise poverty levels, increase crime and blight and greatly harm our State’s most vulnerable populations.”
On December 23, the City of Yucaipa filed an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief with the Supreme Court, requesting that the order be terminated.
On Tuesday, January 5, the City of Chino Hills filed an amicus curiae brief with the California Supreme Court, asserting that Governor Newsom’s order was unconstitutional and economically destructive.
On December 29, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, representing Newsom, submitted a response to San Bernardino County’s filing with the Supreme Court, stating, “Amid an unprecedented surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, petitioners ask this court to exercise its original jurisdiction to strike down public health orders seeking to contain that pandemic.”
Deaths and a burgeoning infection rate demonstrate the need for public safeguards, Becerra maintained, and he said Newsom was acting within the scope of his authority as governor, and responsibly meeting his duty as the state’s highest elected official.
“The challenged public health orders are authorized not only by the Emergency Services Act, but also by additional, unchallenged provisions of the Health and Safety Code,” Becerra propounded.
-Mark Gutglueck

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