By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Associated Press JULY 2, 2020 — 6:25PM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Heading into Memorial Day weekend, California’s mood was celebratory. The state had avoided dire predictions of a coronavirus surge, hospitalizations were starting to decline and restaurants and most other businesses had reopened.
As July 4th approaches, the mood has soured. Infection rates and hospitalizations are rising fast. Most bars have been ordered closed along with inside dining at restaurants. Many beaches are off-limits or have restrictions to limit crowds. Fireworks shows are canceled and Gov. Gavin Newsom is imploring residents to avoid the holiday tradition of backyard barbecues and other gatherings of relatives and friends.
In about five weeks, the nation’s most populous state went from success story to cautionary tale. Health experts say no single thing went wrong, but contributing factors included a populace made complacent by a long stretch of positive trends, the rapid reopening of businesses, a confusing patchwork of local rules and enforcement, and Newsom’s late adoption of a mandatory mask rule, on June 18.
But the shift toward local control created a patchwork of rules. Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, said her organization that represents grocery chains, big box stores and others, had long requested more consistency. On masks, she pointed to an Orange County shopping complex with stores in two separate cities with different rules on masks, which made it hard for store workers to deal with an annoyed public.
“Literally you would go from Macy’s furniture store which is in Irvine, which is where you would have to have your mask on, to Best Buy across the street and you wouldn’t,” she said. “Our perspective has always been its easier to have one statewide ordinance or mandate that we all follow that we can all enforce.”