Dozens of speakers converged on the Riverside County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside Tuesday to demand the Board of Supervisors terminate remaining health orders and start the process of liberating businesses from coronavirus-related restrictions.
"This is medical tyranny,'' Riverside-area salon owner Adrian Bermudez told the board. "You sit up here in your ivory tower and make decisions. But who's going to pay your salary if there's no tax base because businesses are going out of business?''
Regional radio personality and Corona resident Don Dix told the supervisors to look to Sweden -- a nation that imposed only a scant number of limitations as COVID-19 spread worldwide -- as a template for the appropriate response to the virus.
"Sweden remained open, and their number of deaths has rounded off,'' Dix said. "Why cripple our economy? This is not about profits; it's about livelihoods and survival. Allow people to be in a position to take care of themselves.''
Board Chairman Manuel Perez and Supervisor Karen Spiegel are proposing the regulatory rollback, which would end requirements on social distancing, use of face coverings, ongoing limitations on golfing, keeping schools shuttered and barring short-term rentals, except in cases of providing emergency shelter for vulnerable persons.
Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county's public health officer, last week unilaterally signed orders keeping the regulations in place until June 19. By dropping them, the county would align with state mandates and no longer have measures that are more austere.
Most of the roughly 50 people who addressed the board in its morning session were not wearing face coverings, as still required by the public health officer's mandate.
"Wearing a mask spreads the message that this (virus) is dangerous,'' Chris Nelson told the supervisors. "Stop operating under fear and operate under facts and statistics so that we can once again revive our freedom.''
Several speakers, including a 16-year-old girl, read from the U.S. Constitution to drive home their points that the county's impositions were over-broad and incompatible with a free society.
"Our Constitutional rights continue to be suppressed with no warrant,'' Hunter Erickson said. "What if we wait another week (to end restrictions)? The virus will still be here. What are we waiting for? How much freedom are we willing to give up? There's no science to warrant this type of lock down. It's time to fully reopen the county and state.''
Last week, Perez said that with over 50,000 COVID-19 screenings conducted and the number of infections now advancing only marginally, there was no "surge'' to fear.
"Our hospital bed and ICU bed use have remained relatively consistent,'' he said. "These data explain why our original modeling has changed.''
With dozens more speakers slated to address the board, and other items still unresolved on its agenda, the meeting was expected to stretch into the early evening hours.
Violating the health orders can result in misdemeanor charges and financial penalties.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home executive order remains in place, with exceptions for so-called "essential'' businesses and meeting everyday needs for personal well-being.
However, he announced Monday that a relaxation in state restrictions was in the works, with certain categories of businesses eligible to re-open this week under a multi-phase plan he unveiled about a week after President Trump introduced his "Opening Up America Again'' framework.
According to Riverside University Health System figures, the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations is down to 217, compared to nearly 230 last week.
There have been 4,354 documented infections, though Kaiser and other
RUHS staff predicted a possible breakout to 65,000 infections by this week,
later revised to 13,000, with 200 deaths, none of which have materialized.
The number of Riverside County deaths from coronavirus-related complications stood at 181 as of early Tuesday. The number of recoveries is at just under 2,000, according to county health officials.
The board granted Kaiser unfettered authority to issue public health mandates when it declared a local emergency on March 10.
During a news briefing last week, the doctor acknowledged that the increase in temperatures and other seasonal changes would "slow the virus down,'' but he asserted the ongoing need to wear face coverings, though the articles are not mandated by the California Department of Public Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends their voluntary utilization only in confined settings.