In response to the largest surge in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a curfew that restricts Californians’ freedom of movement from 10 pm to 5 am for the next month. Meanwhile, his administration has placed 40 of the state’s 58 counties in the most restrictive reopening tier.

It’s unclear how state officials will implement the curfew given that many California sheriffs have balked at its enforcement. For instance, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that, “deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement” due to ongoing emergency needs.

The OC department is taking an “education-first approach,” which is a better response. By contrast, the governor’s order is overly draconian. It bans “all gatherings with members of other households and all activities conducted outside the residence, lodging, or temporary accommodation with members of other households.”

This is a good time to glean lessons from the state’s previous attempts to control the virus. Unfortunately, the governor has sometimes bungled the response, ranging from his personal behavior to his unwillingness to address the serious concerns of business owners who are facing economic ruination.

Newsom recently has received well-deserved criticism for attending a birthday fete at a pricey Napa Valley restaurant. It’s a small thing, perhaps, but when a governor who has largely unchecked emergency powers can’t follow his own rules, it hardly inspires public confidence.

The state government ought to start with the least-restrictive measures first. Yet most of the restrictions seem based on what’s easy to decree, not what necessarily is most protective of public health.

Yes, governors need additional powers during an emergency, but our system was designed with checks and balances because one leader isn’t the font of all wisdom. The Legislature needs to reassert its power – a point reinforced by a court decision reining in Newsom’s executive authority.

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Newsom also has used the pandemic to push for wide-ranging progressive policy measures, on matters ranging from evictions to mail-in voting. Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley compiled a 123-page list of the governor’s executive actions since the crisis started. Newsom isn’t letting a good crisis go to waste. This undermines public confidence in the necessity of the rules.

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Newsom has argued that local governments should enforce rules that varied according to local conditions, but he really hasn’t given the locals much latitude. Going forward, Newsom should work more closely with elected officials representing our large and diverse state.

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Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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