Modoc Becomes First California County to Reopen Despite Governor's Stay-at-Home Order

A small municipality in Northern California permitted all nonessential businesses, schools and public transit companies to resume operations on Friday, becoming the first in the state to do so.

The "staged" reopening strategy was issued earlier last week by local officials in Mordoc County, which houses roughly 9,000 people and has not reported any cases of the new coronavirus. Two additional California counties will begin to reopen on Monday.

Modoc County's plan launched on May 1, the same day California Governor Gavin Newsom outlined enforced closures of Orange County beaches and confirmed his administration's statewide stay-at-home order would remain in effect until further notice. During his announcement, Newsom stressed the importance of continued physical distancing procedures as means to combat the virus' spread, though he foreshadowed a possible rollback of some restrictions coming soon. California's lockdown was initially implemented on March 19, ahead of any other United States region to impose similarly widespread mitigation policies.

In a statement released April 28, Modoc County's health and administrative leaders notified residents of upcoming reopening procedures set to launch three days later. The proposal—signed by representatives from the county's Health Officer, Board of Supervisors, Office of Emergency Services and Sheriff's Office—allowed restaurants, bars, educational institutions, physicians offices, places of worship and other nonessential establishments to offer in-person services while adhering to a series of added safety guidelines.

"Modoc County has coordinated with partners to strategically plan a staged reopening," the statement read, noting its intentions to restore the county "to a pre COVID-19 state" in phases. The plan stated that Modoc would reinforce its previous lockdown order if two or more cases of the coronavirus are identified among its population.

Like other parts of the U.S. that have begun to reopen their economic sectors, Modoc County's plan requires businesses and individuals to respect social distancing protocols, protective hygiene practices and sanitation measures. Restaurants and bars can accept dine-in customers at half of their maximum capacities. Residents who are older than 65 and those with preexisting medical conditions must continue to self-isolate through May 15, and large gatherings in areas where physical distance mandates cannot be carried out are still prohibited.

Governor Gavin Newsom
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, after military hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived to provide medical assistance to hospitals overwhelmed due to the coronavirus outbreak. On May 1, Newsom announced the state's stay-at-home order would remain in effect until further notice, as Modoc County began to reopen local businesses. Carolyn Cole-Pool/Getty

Yuba and Sutter counties, located about 50 miles north of Sacramento, will begin to reopen segments of their economies on Monday, though schools, religious institutions, theaters and public transportation remain closed. According to Sutter County's Department of Health, the Yuba-Sutter area has confirmed 50 cases of the new coronavirus as well as three subsequent deaths and eight hospitalizations overall.

Newsom has been commended for his decision to implement a statewide stay-at-home order early during the nation's coronavirus outbreak. As of Sunday morning, California had confirmed a total of 53,655 cases and 2,194 deaths due to the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University's tracker. Its numbers rank fifth in the U.S., though California's population, at nearly 40 million, is significantly larger than any other state in the nation.

Modoc County's administrative offices did not reply to Newsweek's request for comment on this story by the time of publication.

Modoc Becomes First California County to Reopen Despite Governor's Stay-at-Home Order | U.S.