As California grapples with reopening its economy, Riverside County health officials announced an order to allow private and public golf courses to reopen with restrictions on April 20. 

The order also includes other recreational and outdoor activities to remain open for the public as well, which provides for hiking, biking, and equestrian activities. Any other non-contact activities will also be allowed, such as golf and tennis. 

Picnic tables, playgrounds, team sports, and other gatherings are still prohibited. 

“After consulting with public health officials and local leadership, we have made modifications for golf and other forms of recreational activity, such as use of parks, trails and outdoor areas for hiking, biking, pickleball and tennis to resume,” Riverside County Chairman V. Manuel Perez told Scriberr News. 

“With proper safety guidelines, our residents can benefit from healthy activities that promote physical exercise, wellness and behavioral health so long as physical distancing is practiced. We will continue to listen and base decisions on thorough review, best practices, data and science,” according to the Riverside County News Release. 

The order was signed by Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County Public Health Officer, and George Johnson, director of emergency services for the county.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser shared a video explaining the order and regulations on his Twitter

The tweet received several mixed comments about the decision, such as: 

“All this hard work to flatten the curve. Yet so quickly to accommodate “golfing”??? How about reopen the small businesses? That is more suitable and more in need than a golf establishment. #Unreal“. 

Another tweet read: “You are catering to the rich for reasons not disclosed to the rest of us. Golf and tennis are largely behind paid memberships in Riverside. What about the workers to maintain these places? You’re putting them and their families at risk. If they refuse, will they lose their jobs?”

By comparison, Orange County officials have begun the beginning stages of reopening businesses and outdoor activities for their residents more rapidly than other counties, after a wave of protesters across the county took to the streets on May 1. 

On April 28, Chairwoman Michelle Steel and Don Wagner of the Orange County Board of Supervisors released a guideline for businesses to begin opening. 

“These guidelines are to give businesses the confidence to function within the state recommendations but with necessary safety precautions. We want to let the public know if they visit a business, there are ways to protect themselves and those around them,” according to the press release

According to Employment Development Department, the unemployment rate in Orange County was 3.6% in March, up from 2.8% in February, and above the year-ago estimate of 3.0%. 

“This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.6 percent for California and 4.5 percent for the nation during the same period,” the report read. 

Between February to March, Orange County lost 13,200 jobs in total. 

Riverside County currently has 4,180 cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and 161 deaths. The city of Riverside contains most of those cases with 767 cases. 

Riverside councilwoman Gaby Plascencia is concerned about the order and the health of the residents in her city. 

“Nobody likes a situation right, businesses are suffering, our economy is suffering. But when I think about the possibilities of people going out, thinking that they can start participating in these activities, I think it sends a bad message right now. I personally believe we’re not there yet. I think we need to wait,” Plascencia told Scriberr News. 

Riverside Councilman Andy Melendrez also expressed his concern about the order because of the city’s increasing daily number of cases. 

On April 22 there were about 537 individuals that have been infected, and about 20 people that had died as a result of the virus. The death rate was four times higher than the day before, with an 8 percent increase in the number of people that have been infected, Melendrez explained. 

The order’s restriction limits that:

  • Play shall be limited to foursomes that will be required to observe social distancing (six feet separation between players at all times).
  • No caddies.
  • No large gatherings, including fundraisers or tournaments, will be permitted before June 20, 2020.
  • Face coverings, such as scarves, bandanas, and neck gaiters, shall be worn by players and workers.
  • No in-person dining will be allowed at clubhouses.

Councilwoman Plascencia believes if the city of Riverside planned on reopening anytime soon, it would provide people with a “false sense of safety,” also making it difficult to police everyone and ensuring they are following the restrictions. 

The order has also added pressure to city officials to see whether or not they will agree to re-open outdoor activities. 

“Again, it’s a county decision. But then it’s now it’s a city decision, right? Because then if the county opens up golf courses and a couple of other recreational opportunities, then obviously everybody’s like, what about us?” Plascencia said. 

City of Corona Vice Mayor Jacque Casillas understands that residents are beginning to get anxious staying inside their homes. 

“I recognized that temperatures are getting hotter and summer is coming in especially being indoors for a long time and people are feeling anxious or just want to get outside. So I recognize now, I hope that everyone can stay vigilant and not use these soft openings as an opportunity to think that we’re back to normal and everything’s ok,” Casillas told Scriberr News.

The city of Corona currently has 180 cases of the Coronavirus. The golf courses in Corona have been reopened since April 20. 

Communities Express Mixed Reactions

Some residents in Riverside county believe the order is a good opportunity for people to go outside and stay active. 

“Unfortunately, one of the main factors contributing to mental illness is the lack of healthy in-person human interaction and outdoor activity. Not to mention, fresh air, sunlight, and the exercise itself are vital to physical health. In my opinion, it was unnecessary and illogical to lockdown these places, to begin with,” resident of Cabazon, Alexis Eberhard told Scriberr News. 

Another resident, Lizzie Ochoa of Beaumont said she believes that the order is a “step towards getting back to normal, but people should stay cautious and keep all matters into consideration with social distancing.” 

Other residents feel more concerned about the orders because not everyone will follow the regulations, a resident of Temecula, Patricia Medranda explained. 

“I think outdoor activities are good for people. However, not everyone has good hygiene and even if they do not everyone follows the rules. I think a lot of the people who have been stuck at home are the ones needing to go out,” Medranda said.

She added: “Remember though as to who is asking for golf courses to open up or tennis courts. These are elite sports! The majority of the population can’t go golfing or play tennis. These are sports that are reserved for the population that can afford these activities.”

Medranda believes this order will be a public health risk and the people that have been following the stay at home orders are the ones in need of an outlet.

“I know friends who have let their kids hangout with other people. My own family (nieces) have still been gathering with other people inside their own home. So, I truly believe it is the population who have been really staying at home that are just tired of being home and need an outlet. Until the politicians local, state, and countrywide are in a consensus, then the population will continue to be uncooperative,” Medranda said. 

Although many golf courses throughout Riverside have reopened, other small businesses are still waiting to resume. Each city in Riverside County is going through their own unique situation in regards to reopening. 

“We have to look at the data, we have to look at the science, and we’re unfortunately not there may be other cities that don’t have our numbers feel more comfortable opening up and loosening up their ordinances, but Riverside I’m not comfortable, we’re not there yet,” Plascencia said.

Yet, many health experts believe that being outside can provide individuals with many health benefits such as exercise, vitamin D, lessening anxiety, improving sleep and focus, and other benefits, according to WebMd

“I hope my city does what’s best for the majority of its occupants, and not what will only partially help a minority of citizens be minimally safer. Safety is important, but it can’t be your only goal in life or you miss out on the things that make life meaningful and worth living,” Eberhard said. 

On May 4, California Gov. Newsom announced the state will begin stage two of the process to reopen California. 

Stage two will allow clothing stores, florists, bookstores, and sporting good stores to reopen while using curbside pick-up only. 

Written ByMaydeen Merino

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