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Lathrop seeks fast tracking of state reopening orders

For the last two months the legal representatives from six of the seven cities in San Joaquin County and the county itself have been working together to create uniformity in the way in which COVID-19 restrictions are implemented and enforced.

And now they’re hoping that a unified front will lead to the fast track to reopening daily life – from the businesses that comprise the local economy to the churches that provide spiritual guidance and a sense of community.

On Tuesday, the Lathrop City Council unanimously approved a resolution that is expected to be adopted by nearly all stakeholders – Stockton is the only city not listed on the document – to request that the State of California grant the county a variance that will allow for local control over the implementation of safeguards intended to protect the community while at the same time reopening businesses and institutions that have been shuttered for more than two months.

While other cities in California have opted to take the bold step of defying the orders of the State of California, Lathrop has strategically done the opposite – instead maintaining the recommendations being made by larger government agencies hoping that it will lead to a little bit of autonomy when determining how to proceed.

According to Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore, there are no plans right now for the city to carve its own path when it comes to encouraging businesses to open sooner than when the state allows.

“We have chosen not to open those facilities because the State of California has chosen not to open those facilities,” Salvatore said Tuesday during the special council meeting. “We have been tracking along with the state and the county on this.”

And since the county has been successful in “flattening the curve” – stretching out the rate of infection so as to not overwhelm local hospitals – local leaders are optimistic that the state will react favorably to their request.

According to Lathrop City Attorney Salvador Navarrete, new recommendations issued by Governor Gavin Newsom Monday work favorably for the City of Lathrop and San Joaquin County as a whole – relaxing some of the previously stringent requirements that were in place to allow for businesses to reopen.

In Navarrete’s opinion, now the only thing that the county needs to work on in order to meet the state’s recommendations is the hiring and implementation of more contract tracers – people that are trained to track those infected with the virus and notify those that they have come into contact with that they have been exposed.

While it was not originally included in the ordinance that went out to the council for its consideration when the special meeting was announced, the resolution approved on Tuesday includes local churches that are described as “houses of worship” – following the move made by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors earlier in the day. While the specifics on how those businesses can open and churches can continue services have not yet been announced, the guidelines for the City of Lathrop will likely correspond with those instituted for the county as a whole.

“The first step is for the county and the cities to ask the state for permission to move ahead,” Navarrete said. “Then the county’s job and the city’s job are to adopt the regulations. I suspect those will mirror the regulations that the county has adopted that were a mirror image to the regulations adopted by the state.

“Any larger function is the area where the criteria need to be fine-tuned since large gatherings are the ones that have been outlawed.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.