U.S.|The complaint in some cities as California reopened: What took so long?
While many Californians were celebrating a fully reopened state on Tuesday, a complaint emerged from some residents and officials in the redder parts: It should have happened a long time ago.
“Here in Merced, the majority of people would think that we waited a little too long and were too restrictive,” said Matthew Serratto, the city’s mayor. “There’s that general perspective in our community that it’s a little too late. We should have sought a balance that protects peoples’ lives and their health.”
The San Joaquin Valley city of Merced, which has a population around 80,000, is nearly two hours from Yosemite National Park. Merced County has had more than 30,000 coronavirus cases and 474 deaths, with about 1 in 9 residents infected since the start of the pandemic.
The virus has had an impact on Merced. In March, the city mourned the death of a longtime local teacher, Frank Delgado, 79, who was known as Mr. D and who died after contracting pneumonia following a battle with Covid-19, according to The Merced Sun-Star.
And its local restaurants, bars and hotels took a considerable hit. Last July, its former mayor told The Merced Sun-Star that he did not know “how much longer our businesses, particularly the hospitality industry, can continue under these constrained circumstances.”
Lacey Hoffman, a manager at Strings, an Italian restaurant in downtown Merced, said that her restaurant had done everything it could to survive during the shutdowns.
“We had to do delivery,” said Ms. Hoffman, who at one point was unemployed during the pandemic. “We had to close some tables for social distancing. It really sucked.”
With most restrictions lifted, Ms. Hoffman said she was looking forward to having busier tables at the restaurant and being able to wear makeup since she will no longer be required to wear a mask.
“I wish we did open up a little earlier, but it is what it is,” she said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic policies helped fuel a Republican-led recall campaign against him. Some in the state believe Mr. Newsom’s latest moves — the reopening date, cash prizes for the vaccinated through a state-financed lottery drawing — have been done to keep voters happy in the run-up to a recall election.
“I think politics are always involved,” said Mr. Serratto, a Democrat. “You can’t separate any human decision-making from politics.”