Rural Communities in California Defy Newsom's Coronavirus Lockdown Orders as Backlash Grows

Rural Communities in California Defy Newsom's Coronavirus
Lockdown Orders as Backlash Grows 1

The pushback against Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict coronavirus lockdown is growing, including in rural communities where businesses and their customers are openly defying the orders.

That includes at Steve’s Sportsmans Cafe in Mariposa County, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Owner Steve Knauf is still serving up chicken fried steak and beef ribs to hungry crowds and said he is no longer listening to state and other officials.

“I think they’re trying to instill fear for something that’s not there,” Knauf said.

“My customers don’t want me to shut down, and I’m not going to,” said Robbie Nelson, owner of the Airport Inn Bar and Grill where people gathered for the comfort food.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the growing defiance: 

Knauf’s sentiment has been a common one, particularly in the rural reaches that make up much of the 12-county San Joaquin Valley region that the state told Monday to halt all but essential services because of the pandemic. The order, following months of shifting and often unpopular restrictions, appears to be only fanning frustration, if not outright defiance.

Public health officials say the backlash, which is also growing in parts of Southern California and the Bay Area, will make it harder to stop the spread of the coronavirus as the number of statewide cases soars to new peaks.

Until recently, Nelson and her husband, who started their business 12 years ago, had been playing by the state’s rules. They limited dining to the outdoors and took the temperatures of their patrons before seating them. However, after months of regulation, which had Mariposa County progressing toward less onerous restrictions but then backtracking, the back-and-forth stopped making sense to Nelson. With this week’s directive, she said she could no longer neglect her plummeting finances.

“I decided this is enough, I’m not going to take it,” Nelson said. “People are dining in full capacity now, and everybody loves it.”

The Chronicle reported that Mariposa County health officer Eric Sergienko is not happy about the revolt.

“Sergienko is encouraging people to follow the state’s guidelines, even sending county workers to a grocery store this week to hand out face masks,” the Chronicle account said.

“People here tend not to want to wear masks, and there’s not a lot of enforcement,” Sergienko said. “We do our best to educate people, but there’s only so much we can do.”

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office also has said it doesn’t have the “capacity” to deal with people violating coronavirus orders, and at least one local official is joining the crowd.

Mariposa County Supervisor Marshall Long stopped by the Airport Inn Bar and Grill earlier this week. While he wants people to remain healthy, he said that the restrictions are overbearing.

“We have to live our lives,” Long said. “People are at the end of their ropes.”

“Under Newsom’s latest plan, California is split into five geographic areas, with each assigned restrictions based on the number of available ICU beds at local hospitals,” the Chronicle reported. “Like the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California is in virtual lockdown, and several Bay Area counties have voluntarily embraced the same level of restrictions. The greater Sacramento area, which includes Lake Tahoe, is expected to be put on lockdown Thursday night.”

Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, is critical of the state’s lockdown.

“It’s not (just) about civil liberties anymore,” Gandhi said. “It’s about poverty and the privilege that’s involved in the phrase ‘stay at home.’ How can I stay at home if my day-to-day putting food on the table depends on my being at work?”

Newsom’s restrictions are expected to stay in place for at least three weeks.

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