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County Considers Lawsuit Against Gov. Newsom to Avoid Most Restrictive Tier

The board is worried the hundreds of Covid-19 cases at San Diego State will knock the entire county into a tier, a category, that tightens restrictions once again, on businesses.

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Behind closed doors Thursday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors discussed possible legal action against Governor Gavin Newsom to keep him from moving the county into the state's most restrictive coronavirus monitoring tier.

No decisions have been made just yet.

San Diego County is likely headed for demotion to tier 1 (purple/widespread), thanks in part to hundreds of COVID-19 cases reported among students at San Diego State University driving up the county's case rate (7-day average of daily news cases per 100,000 residents).

Case rate is one of two metrics considered by the state when assigning counties to their appropriate tier within California's reopening plan. Public Health Officer Dr. WIlma Wooten has said that without SDSU's 749 cases, the county's case rate (7.9) would safely fall in the 4 to 6.9 range required to stay in tier 2 (red/substantial).

Demotion to tier one would close indoor operation for some industries and tighten capacity limits at others.

Earlier this week supervisors petitioned the state to exclude the university's cases from the county's data, but were met with a firm rejection from the governor. The supervisors have said they won't stop pushing for a break from the state until judgement day, Sept. 22, when the state reviews San Diego's metrics and assigns it to a tier.

The pandemic has been a roller coaster for businesses having to hang on during the ups and downs.

Leo Ciriminna, owner of Hillcrest restaurant Parma Cucina Italiana, has had to pivot many times to the changing restrictions placed on restaurants, which included stoppages and continuations of indoor and outdoor dining service.

“I’m lucky because I never had to close,” said Ciriminna.

They did what they had to, to stay open.

“We ended up just being only me and the cook, honestly, for a few weeks.”

If San Diego County is in fact bumped down to tier one, indoor dining service is disallowed for the second time since the pandemic started.

“We might go through a very big loss of business again. So that’s my personal fear," said Ciriminna.

As for the county's push to get the state to look past SDSU's cases, political analyst David Shirk doesn't think it's likely to happen.

“As long as people are coming and going off the campus, it’s really hard to make the case that it’s not contaminating to the rest of the San Diego County community,” Shirk said.

County supervisors could not share details of their closed-door meeting, but Supervisor Nathan Fletcher offered this comment:

"In general, I believe we should be fighting COVID-19 and not the state of California. We do not yet know what our case rate will be next Tuesday and will have to evaluate that number in order to understand any possible impact. 

Unfortunately, the problem we now face was avoidable. On August 28th, we were placed in the “red tier” with the option to open additional business entities associated with that tier. I strongly recommended we move slowly, only opening the lowest risk entities, while holding the higher risk entities until we had seen the impacts of school and university openings. My fear at that time was expedited re-openings would put those businesses at risk of a sudden reclosure. I desperately wanted us to avoid the continuation of an open/close posture that is devastating for our small businesses. Sadly, that reality is now before us."

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