More parks and hiking trails welcomed visitors again Saturday and one city declared itself a “sanctuary” from California's stay-at-home order as the state's diverse regions carve their own path toward reopening.
Officials in Atwater, a city of 30,000 in central California, unanimously agreed Friday not to enforce the nearly 2-month-old order intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, meaning local authorities won't interfere with any business or church that decides to reopen ahead of state restrictions.
The declaration was a symbolic gesture of defiance against Gov. Gavin Newson's order and the city's mayor cautioned that businesses were taking their own risks by reopening.
"If you do have a state (business) license, that’s between you and the state of California,” Mayor Paul Creighton told the Merced Sun-Star.
California is moving through the second phase of relaxing the order. Businesses deemed lower risk have been gradually allowed to reopen, with retailers offering curbside pickup. Beaches in Los Angeles County, which has emerged as California's epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak, reopened its beaches for limited use on Wednesday and more trails in the Angeles National Forest reopened Saturday.
Meanwhile, state public health officials confirmed nearly 100 deaths Saturday for a total of 3,200 fatalities. California, the nation’s most populous state, has fared better than many other states, most notably New York, which has nine times more deaths.
In some less-populated areas mainly in the northern half of the state, the virus barely registered. There have been few or no deaths, and even hospitalizations now are rare in those areas.
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As a result, California has seen counties move at different paces in reopening their economies.
Most people with the virus experience fever and cough for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority recover.