California protesters push to reopen; governor urges caution
Last updated 4/20/2020 at 3:59pm
SACRAMENTO (AP) — Hundreds of protesters lobbying to ease Gov. Gavin Newsom's tight stay-at-home orders rallied around the California Capitol on Monday, even as Newsom continued to urge restraint, saying the worst thing state leaders could do is "make a decision that's based on politics and frustration."
He outlined his approval for some counties to gradually relax some restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Newsom said he approved a plan by Ventura County in Southern California to reopen golf courses and parks, which on Monday prompted the top health official in neighboring Los Angeles County to implore residents not to flood those locations as warmer temperatures arrive this week and bring with them the lure of parks, beaches and other outdoor places.
"There is a cap in terms of the loosening," Newsom said, praising Ventura County officials for consulting with his office before their announcement. "They do not go beyond those state orders."
Newsom promised an update Wednesday on how the state is doing on the six measures he has said will be critical to reopening California.
But he warned that "this virus knows no jurisdiction."
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged residents not to go to neighboring Ventura County, where continuing restrictions include social distancing and reduced parking.
"You'll overwhelm a county that is trying to sort of relax some of their restrictions for their residents and do so in a sensible way," Ferrer said, warning that people "could inadvertently come back infected yourself and then spread that infection to other people."
More than 1,180 people have died from the new coronavirus in California as of Monday and nearly 30,000 have been confirmed to have the virus, but Newsom has acknowledged that testing has lagged in the state of nearly 40 million.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Meanwhile, at least 100 vehicles circled the Capitol in Sacramento, horns blaring, as at least 200 protesters marched with signs protesting the weeks-long shutdown that has paralyzed the economy. Many did not wear masks and crowded together on the sidewalk and streets, defying recommendations to minimize the spread of the virus.
It was the latest in a series of protests in California and other western states in recent days; rallies that came after President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted messages that some took to be encouraging protests against stay-at-home mandates.
"If you're going to protest, practice physical distancing," Newsom implored. "The worst thing we could do is make a decision that's based on politics and frustration."
Associated Press journalists John Antczak and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Rich Pedroncelli in Sacramento contributed to this story.