Golf courses throughout Riverside County were permitted Monday to resume operations under an amended health order that had closed them earlier this month in response to the coronavirus emergency.
County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser and CEO George Johnson jointly signed the amended order allowing the courses to reopen -- with restrictions.
Kaiser characterized the change as part of an effort to "cautiously" move forward with an activity that will be monitored.
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Social distancing requirements, namely the 6-feet-apart rule, must be observed by players, with no more than four to a group -- and all wearing face coverings. No caddies are allowed. Clubhouse dining, as well as any other in-house affairs, remain prohibited.
Under an order signed by Kaiser on April 2, no golfing was permitted.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Manuel Perez mentioned Friday that a loosening of the regulations might be in order.
"Golf is an iconic part of our destination, our history and our economy," said Scott White, chief operating officer for the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We sincerely appreciate the news that golf will be reopened to allow our residents the opportunity to return to the sport they love.
"It is imperative that we follow the orders outlined and not allow the coronavirus to return to the previous levels. We will continue to work with Riverside County, with the goal to help reopen more tourism-related businesses."
The revised health order further states that bicycling, hiking and equestrian activities, which were never strictly barred, can go ahead on trails and in parks, as long as social distancing standards are adhered to and masks or other coverings are utilized.
"After consulting with public health officials and local leadership, we have made modifications for golf and other forms of recreational activity, such as use of parks, trails and outdoor areas,'' Perez said.
"With proper safety guidelines, our residents can benefit from healthy activities that promote physical exercise, wellness and behavioral health so long as physical distancing is practiced. We will continue to listen and base decisions on thorough review, best practices, data and science."
On Friday, the county also revised an April 6 order that forbade church services, following an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom that specifically accommodated "drive-in" worship.
A civil liberties group quickly dropped a pending legal action against the county based on the prohibition impacting church engagements. However, a federal civil suit filed a week ago by the San Francisco-based Center for American Liberty is moving ahead.
The organization's lead attorney, Harmeet Dhillon, told City News Service that by disallowing all forms of in-person meetings for religious practice, Riverside County and other localities are trampling on First and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, putting "people of faith in a worse position than, say, people seeking to buy food or go to a laundromat."
The county has stated the order is among a slate of anti-coronavirus safeguards.