Defiance or patience? Hurdles in place before next phase for Fresno County

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Even as Fresno moves towards reopening businesses, some of those places are defying the orders that closed their doors more than 50 days ago.

An open restaurant filled to the smaller capacity it allowed Friday and got a visit from a city council member supporting the opening even though it violates a city 'shelter in place' order.

"People are having trouble making money to put food on the table," said council member Garry Bredefeld. "It's all unconstitutional and it's all wrong."

Courts will ultimately decide whether emergency orders like the city's are constitutional, but so far have deemed them to be in line with the Constitution, at least during a public health emergency.

City code enforcement officers warned the Waffle Shop's owners when they opened Thursday and fined them $1000 when they did it again Friday because Fresno restaurants still aren't allowed to serve customers inside.

"We know that businesses are chomping at the bit to open up and we really want to help them get there," said Fresno County administrative officer Jean Rousseau.

Counties have some wiggle room in the reopening timeline, but Gov. Gavin Newsom set up a phased reopening plan to try and minimize public health risks.

"We understand just how fragile our safety nets are and we don't want to overwhelm them by everyone kind of stampeding into the next phase," said Fresno County health officer Dr. Rais Vohra, who is in charge of certifying the county has met readiness criteria before reopening more industries.

Counties need to reach goals of 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, or about 150 in Fresno County, which had no more than 50 a week ago.

"We think we're going to be close to that in early June," Rousseau said. "We're working on it right now, but we're not there yet."

Counties need to be able to do about 150 coronavirus tests per day per 100,000 people.

In Fresno County, that's almost 1,500 a day. They're up to between 500 and 600 a day this week and should increase that number dramatically next week.

They also need to have no COVID-19 deaths in the last 14 days.

Fresno County leaders are worried that's a high bar to meet. The last death, the ninth in the county, was reported on Wednesday.

Hospitals also need to have enough PPE, the personal protective equipment, in case of a surge of 35% more patients.

"Our providers are telling us they're struggling to really protect their staff with enough PPE and that's just right now when everyone is sheltered in place," said Dr. Vohra.

The next phase -- Phase 3 for the state -- could come in June for most restaurants.

But for some, the next phase has already started. It's defiance when they ran out of patience.
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