Big Bear Lake to stop communicating or enforcing state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order

The city of Big Bear Lake has announced it will no longer communicate or enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home health order, saying that it has no legal responsibility to impose the state’s restrictions.

“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 [including health, legal, financial and licensing], and act accordingly,” officials said in a news release Thursday evening.

With the announcement, Big Bear Lake, a mountain resort town of more than 5,000 people in San Bernardino County, joined other communities that have defied the state’s stay-at-home order and the governor’s plan to reopen California in an ordered approach to prevent new infections of the coronavirus.

While most counties that have rebelled, such as Modoc, Sutter and Yuba, are located in rural areas with relatively few confirmed infections, officials in Tulare, one of California’s hardest-hit counties, recently decided to reopen more businesses before meeting the health criteria set by the state.

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted this week, 3-2, to move the county all the way through Phase 3 of California’s reopening road map, which would allow movie theaters, shopping malls, salons, gyms and dine-in restaurants to reopen. In-person religious services also would be able to resume.

Big Bear Lake’s decision followed a May 13 letter its mayor sent to Newsom that sought approval to implement a plan to reopen “to save our community from catastrophic economic and social collapse.”

The plan envisions all businesses being able to operate in the same general timeline, but the letter received no response, according to City Manager Frank Rush.

In their news release, officials said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been manageable in the Big Bear Valley thanks to the community’s diligence in adhering to the state’s restrictions, as well as the isolated geography of Big Bear Lake.

They noted that there is sufficient capacity within local and regional healthcare systems, as well as readily available testing and contact tracing.

Big Bear Lake has had six cases of the virus while there have been close to 4,000 cases and 210 hospitalizations of suspected or confirmed cases in the rest of San Bernardino County, according to the release.

Officials held that while the governor has indicated that more counties may be granted additional authority to relax restrictions, it did not appear like that would be the case in their county “in any significant way in the near term.” They warned residents that opening their businesses against the state’s orders could result in the loss of state licenses, and they should continue to exercise physical distancing and wear face coverings.

“I think the reality is that many people across the state are simply ignoring the governor’s order,” Rush said. “We’re going to trust our community to do the right thing and keep people safe.”

In contrast, communities in the Lake Tahoe region, which heavily depend on tourism as well, have issued reminders before Memorial Day weekend warning that leisure travel is still not permitted.

On its website, the city of South Lake Tahoe said that while second homeowners are now welcome, other visitors are still not. Lodging will not be available to short-term renters.

“We would love nothing more than to welcome everyone to Tahoe right now, but that’s not the safest way to bring people back to South Lake,” City Manager Joe Irvin said in a statement. “We need to be responsible and make sure we are doing our part to keep our neighbors safe and Tahoe safe while adhering to the governor’s stay at home orders.”

Truckee Mayor Dave Polivy said the town’s economy has suffered greatly by the loss of revenue it accrues from tourism. Its gravel bike festival, no longer occurring in the coming weeks, attracts a couple of thousand families.

“Our economy is already being impacted and will continue to be impacted for a long time,” he said. “It’s just how do we start to move in a positive direction and start to open up in a safe way.”

*story by Los Angeles Times