Paso Robles council votes for return to purple tier

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The Paso Robles City Council voted unanimously Thursday to return the North County city to purple-tier status, sidestepping California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest stay-at-home order. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order took effect Sunday evening, triggered by an increase in patients in intensive care units at hospitals in Southern California. Until at least after Christmas, hair and nail salons; outdoor and indoor dining at restaurants; gyms; and wineries are under orders to shut down.

Newsom’s order, which requires people to stay at their homes as much as possible, has led dozens of residents to turn in neighbors they suspect have violated the rule. However, many businesses have refused to abide by the rules, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and District Attorney Dan Dow have said it is not their job to enforce coronavirus lockdown orders.

At a special meeting on Thursday, the Paso Robles council voted 5-0 in favor of the city no longer complying with Newsom’s stay-at-home rules and instead returning to purple-tier restrictions. When a jurisdiction is in the purple tier, restaurants, gyms and places of worship are allowed to conduct outdoor-only operations. Likewise, retail stores can operate indoors at limited capacity. 

Newsom grouped San Luis Obispo County with Los Angeles County in the Southern California region. The governor’s stay-at-home rules were triggered when, a week ago, the Southern California region’s intensive care unit capacity dropped below 15 percent. 

In addition to voting to sidestep the stay-at-home order, the Paso Robles council unanimously decided to join other cities in San Luis Obispo County in requesting that Newsom reclassify SLO County in a region that does not include the Los Angele area.

Furthermore, the council called for continued education to be provided to residents and businesses and for the SLO County health officer to determine flagrant violations of coronavirus restrictions, rather than directing local law enforcement to police the matter.

Prior to the vote, Paso Robles council members voiced concern about the ability of local businesses to survive another shutdown. 

Councilman Fred Strong also said he wanted to make sure what Paso Robles is doing is still legal.

“I just don’t want to really thumb our nose at the state,” Strong said. “We can oppose what they’re trying to do to us, but I don’t think we have to do that and thumb our nose at them.”

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