FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California lifted "stay home" orders everywhere in the state Monday, freeing hundreds of businesses to reopen and restaurants to open for outdoor dining.
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The entire San Joaquin Valley moved from a "stay home" order to the purple tier Monday, a major change for the regional economy.
A place like River Park can really spring back to life because, for example, just in one row are several businesses that can reopen -- restaurants, personal care services, and nails salons -- all allowed to reopen with Fresno County now in the purple tier.
Across the state, those businesses employ thousands of people who theoretically lost their jobs for the last seven weeks.
Fresno Assemblyman Jim Patterson accused Gov. Gavin Newsom of giving and lifting orders on a whim.
"What is this governor doing?" asked Assm. Patterson, (R) Fresno. "One day he closes us down. The next he opens us up."
Patterson says analysts don't expect all the lost jobs to return for a few years.
He says the governor only allowed businesses to reopen because of political pressure -- from a recall campaign and lawsuits.
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"He is losing political support up and down the state," said Assm. Patterson.
The state did release its modeling data and it shows the local hospital and ICU population projected to decline significantly over the next four weeks, clearing up more than 20% of the beds.
The governor dismissed the notion he lifted stay home orders because of political pressure.
"That's complete and utter nonsense," said Gov. Newson, (D) California. "That's just dispense with that."
When the governor instituted the "stay home" order in December, Fresno County had 420 COVID patients in the hospital, 64 in ICU, and averaged 279 new cases per day -- but all those numbers were rising significantly.
As he lifted it, the county has 575 COVID patients in the hospital, 95 in ICU, and is averaging 534 new cases per day.
For now, all those numbers are declining.
"It can change if people let their guard down," said Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. "It can change if people stop socially distancing. It can change if people make the decision not to wear a mask, especially when they're indoors."
Restaurant owners struggled to understand the state's ban on outdoor dining for the last seven weeks, so they're celebrating it coming to an end.
"It means that we get to bring employees back," said Chuck Van Fleet, who owns Vino Grille & Spirits.
Van Fleet says he can put five people to work every day for outdoor dining.
Multiply that by every restaurant in the county and it's thousands of jobs coming back online.
"They're college students, they're single parents," said Fresno City Council Member Mike Karbassi. "These are people who are our neighbors, they're our family and they depend on the flexibility of these jobs."
But restaurant owners say outdoor dining is just a first step for them.
"By no means does this make it viable for restaurant to survive," said Van Fleet. "We have to get to indoor dining at 50% at some point in order for us to survive."
The move to the purple tier also means nail salons and other personal services can reopen, along with several other business sectors.
But getting to a tier where indoor dining is allowed will still be a challenge.
The county needs to get its new case rate down by a lot, and its positivity rate was above 12% last week.
Mayor Dyer is asking people to stay focused on social distancing and wearing masks.
"In order for us to go from the purple tier to the red tier, which will then allow for indoor dining, we need to get down to a positivity rate of 7%, so we still have a ways to go there," he said.
'Stay home' orders lifted, Republicans accuse governor of acting on whims and political pressure
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