A popular Southern California mountain resort city headed into the Memorial Day weekend with a decision to not enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, arguing it has kept COVID-19 cases manageable and there has been significant economic harm.
The city of Big Bear Lake said this week it encourages social distancing, face coverings and good hygiene, but it has no legal responsibilities to enforce the state orders. The city plans to refer all inquiries, complaints and concerns to the governor’s office and the state health department.
Perched along the south shore of its namesake lake more than 6,700 feet high in the San Bernardino Mountains, the city is a year-round getaway about a two-hour drive northeast of Los Angeles. A promising ski season abruptly shut down in March with onset of pandemic restrictions.
"As a result of the Governor’s restrictions, the vast majority of local businesses have essentially been closed for the past 10 weeks, resulting in significant and continuing economic and social harm in our community," the city statement said. "Tourism-dependent businesses have been especially harmed."
The city, which has reported only six COVID-19 cases and three others in nearby areas, said it developed a plan for safely reopening that is tailored to the needs of the community but is still awaiting a response from the governor.
Although the governor has been granting variances on restrictions for many counties, the city said it did not expect any change in the near term for San Bernardino County, which includes Big Bear Lake.
"Businesses and residents should take responsibility for their own actions, should thoughtfully consider the Governor’s orders and the risks associated with their specific circumstances," the city said. It noted the risks could include loss of state licenses for certain types of business.
San Bernardino County health officials had no immediate comment, said Lana Culp, an agency spokesperson.
Not all of California's mountain recreation and tourism regions were ready to see influxes of visitors from the cities.
In the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe visitor authorities continued to ask fans to admire the region from "a distance."
At Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra, visitmammoth.com continued to ask anyone who is not a primary resident or a provider of essential services to stay away for the time being, saying that "as a small, remote mountain community our health care facilities lack the capacity to handle a widespread outbreak of COVID-19."