Much like the patchwork landscape of COVID restrictions and varying compliance seen across the U.S., California cities and counties aren't all uniformly cooperating with Governor Gavin Newsom's latest orders even as virus cases rise.
Just this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci was urging all Americans "to be motivated to hang in there a bit longer and double down on the public health measures."
"I just can’t understand why there’s pushback against that," Fauci said. "They’re not that difficult to do. And they save lives."
But up in Yuba City, in Sutter County, downtown restaurants are still allowing patrons to dine indoors, even though the county slipped into the "Purple" tier this week along with dozens of other California counties — and therefore should only be allowing takeout and outdoor dining.
As the Associated Press reports, one of those restaurants is Linda’s Soda Bar and Grill, and the town's mayor and other authorities aren't yet doing anything to stop them. Yuba City is an example, as the AP explains, of a county where many residents are glad to comply with mask orders and don't deny the dangers of the pandemic, but where residents thumb their nose at being told certain businesses must close.
Newsom's much-publicized attendance at a birthday dinner at the French Laundry two weeks ago is seen as proof that he doesn't put his money where his mouth is.
"His rules don’t apply to him," said one breakfast patron at Linda's Soda Bar, speaking to the AP. "I think it’s a power grab."
That same patron, Nelda Kay, said she and her family were skipping the traditional Thanksgiving celebration this year out of safety concerns.
Another patron at Linda's, 64-year-old Rick Patrick, tells the AP that people gathering in big groups is "stupidity" and people who won't wear masks are "asinine," but he still goes for breakfast indoors at Linda's. "You’ve got to support these mom and pop businesses," he says.
This isn't the first time this year that Yuba City has been singled out for rebelling against Newsom's orders. Back in the first week of May, before any retail businesses had been officially allowed back open in the state, the Yuba Sutter Mall in Yuba City reopened in defiance of state rules, with the blessing of the county health officer.
Newsom said at the time that this was "premature" and "a big mistake," but it was only a week or two later that retail stores were allowed back open in most counties either at limited capacity or with curbside sales.
Cities and counties that defy orders could face crackdowns by the state, but it's not certain what shape these will take. In late July, the Chronicle reported that two other California cities that refused state lockdown orders, Atwater and Coalinga in the Central Valley, saw their half-million-dollar coronavirus aid packages rescinded by the state.
Sutter County currently has rapidly rising COVID metrics that are outpacing virus spread at the state level. The county's percent-positivity rate is twice that of the states, clocking in this week at 10.9%, and they are seeing 21.8 new virus cases per 100,000 residents per day. Statewide, the rate is 16.5 new cases per 100,000 residents, and in Bay Area counties it's now around 9 or 10 new cases per 100,000, with the exception of Sonoma County, where it's currently 15 new cases per 100,000 per day.
The vast majority of Californians live in the 41 counties that are now in the "Purple" tier, and therefore have no ability to enjoy indoor dining as winter is setting in. As businesses struggle to survive, there may be a growing trend of these kinds of scofflaw dining arrangements, as residents and business owners quietly agree to break the rules in order to keep them afloat — and as state and local authorities are either stretched too thin to enforce the rules, or decide to turn a blind eye.
Photo: Rich L./Yelp