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As educators and supporters earn a separate cutout for students and public schools, Riverside County moves toward opening businesses by rescinding county health guidelines

Under substantial pressure from local business owners, restaurateurs, and religious leaders pleading for an end to the shutdown and restrictions on mass gatherings, Riverside County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted 5-0 to rescind county and state health guidelines and begin re-opening.

Chair V. Manuel Perez wears mask as supervisors vote 5-0 to remove restrictions across Riverside County

The debate that began at Tuesday’s meeting was extended for a second day on Friday when educators and school proponents weighed in to nix the proposal which included opening all K-12 public schools. Desert Sands Teachers Association President Trina Gonzales-Alesi, in her capacity as chair of Riverside Coalition of Presidents, helped organize the Tuesday response that led to Thursday’s delayed decision. She lamented there appeared to be “…a huge disconnect between allowing businesses to reopen and keeping public schools closed. As safety precautions are lifted and citizens return to their jobs, many of them will face challenges around how to provide childcare while they are at work. “

Riverside County BOS Chair V. Manuel Perez stated that he was inclined to remove the county order because Governor Newsom’s latest benchmarks established for the post-Coronavirus opening were “…unattainable for counties like Riverside- the fourth largest in California.”

Supervisors did heed the voice of educators, administrators, and local school board members in removing public schools from the list of opening institutions. County opening was opposed by health and other medical professionals who argued the move was premature and not based on scientific determinations.

“Riverside County Board of Supervisors has chosen to bow to pressure and political expediency rather than doing what is best for the health and safety of our communities across Riverside County.” Joe Bartell- CTA Board Member

Many supporters of ending the guidelines were business owners and service workers in those small businesses who have been mostly unemployed while employers laid off thousands across the county. The resulting frustration over the loss of jobs and imposed movement restrictions boiled over the BOS for two consecutive meetings. At one point during public forum testimony on Thursday, Chair Perez admonished a speaker and member of the crowd to respect meeting decorum by not shouting during or after individual speakers.

The supervisors expressed a collective disappointment that the governor’s newest order was too restrictive; certain mortality markers simply could not be met.

Some supporters of opening argued that herd immunity is the only practical solution; instead of quarantining the healthy, isolate only the sick. Several suggested the crisis was manipulated as a “deep state power grab.”

Through both days of comments, educators, administrators, and community leaders consistently spoke in opposition to the opening of public schools.

Darrell Peeden, Moreno Valley Unified School Board vice president argued that science and the voice of health experts should prevail when decisions are made; “We must follow the advice of public health officers” he said.

California Teachers Association Board Member Joe Bartell was relieved schools were removed from the reopening order, but believes there is still much cause for concern; “Riverside County Board of Supervisors has chosen to bow to pressure and political expediency rather than doing what is best for the health and safety of our communities across Riverside County. By rescinding these three health orders supervisors are placing the lives of families in danger. CTA cares for the well-being of our students, their families, and our members. While we are not against the reopening of our communities, we do believe it should be done in a safe and measured way, unlike the direction in which the County Board has chosen to go tonight.”