‘Our Luck May Have Run Out’: California’s Case Count Explodes


By May, with low case counts remaining steady, Mr. Newsom was coming under increasing pressure to reopen. Harmeet K. Dhillon, a civil rights attorney and member of the Republican National Committee, filed more than a dozen lawsuits related to the reopening. If residents could congregate at Costco, they should be able to go to church, she argued. Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, railed that his Bay Area car factory was forced to shut and threatened to move the company’s headquarters out of California.

Mr. Newsom localized the reopening process, allowing counties to move at different speeds, repeatedly declaring that “localism is determinative,” and vowing to collaborate with county governments, not issue orders. Church congregations were allowed to meet with restrictions.

Advocates for reopening like Ms. Dhillon felt vindicated.

“I feel that our lawsuits were responsible for large sectors of California’s economy opening up much sooner than the governor originally intended,” she said, adding that she fielded countless calls from business owners. “People are absolutely devastated.”

But Mr. Newsom was also criticized by those who worried the state was reopening too quickly.

Dr. Sara Cody, the chief health officer of Santa Clara County and the architect of the Bay Area’s stay-at-home orders, said the system was bewildering to residents who cross county lines regularly.

“For the public it’s incredibly confusing,” Dr. Cody said in an interview. “What’s the message? How can it be that something is OK here and in the adjoining county it’s not?”

The measures have become even more disparate in the past few weeks. In Napa and Sonoma Counties, wine tastings and restaurant meals are permitted both indoors and outside. In San Francisco, restaurant dining is only available outdoors. Mayor London Breed of San Francisco announced last week that the city would postpone the reopening, scheduled for Monday, of hair and nail salons, massage shops, museums, tattoo parlors and outdoor bars.

Diana Dooley, a former state secretary of Health and Human Services who dealt with the Ebola and Zika pandemics during her tenure, said she had watched “with great empathy” as the crisis gripped California. Initially, she said, “it looked like the Bay Area was driving the decisions.” And as the virus spread, Californians were generally compliant.



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