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covid reopen

Manteca officials are making a case for allowing the city — and arguably the rest of the South County east of the San Joaquin River — to accelerate reopening businesses.

City Manager Miranda Lutzow notes Manteca believes it meets the critical criteria although it can’t be sure on two crucial points — new deaths and no more than one new case per 10,000 residents during the past two weeks. That’s because San Joaquin County health officials that are keeping tight reins on the reopening process won’t share that critical information with cities like Manteca. Early on the county wasn’t sharing information on known COVID-19 patients even with first responders and as a result three Manteca firefighters were exposed and had to be quarantined.

To meet the new case requirement needed to reopen further, Manteca based on 84,500 could not have more than 8 new people ill with COVID-19 over a two-week period.  Based on what city officials can ascertain, Manteca has only had two or three deaths.

Lutzow said hospital capacity for possible COVID-19 exceeds the required 35 percent so much that Doctors Hospital of Manteca has been forced to lay off staff.

The city is putting the finishing touches on a detailed reopening plan that would require everyone entering stores to wear masks and for strict protocols to be followed by businesses. Lutzow said that plan — and a recap of where the city is at — will be forwarded to both the county health department and the governor’s office.’

Lutzow emphasized the city is completely aware that it cannot reopen businesses beyond what the state and county will allow. But she believes the city is well positioned to be allowed to do so.

That also likely extends to Ripon and Lathrop that had low case counts as well when the county was making the number of COVID-10 cases by city public.

There is also a third the population in the three cities than the 330,000 in Stockton proper and adjacent urbanized areas.

Manteca is already ahead of nearby cities such as Tracy and Stockton as well as San Joaquin County in bringing its employees all back into the workplace. Although city offices will remain closed to the public for in-person business, all municipal office employees will be back at work in city offices. The city has adjusted work spaces according to social distancing rules, is requiring the wearing of face masks, has protocols in place involving hand sanitizing, and has a robust deep cleaning schedule in place.

The city’s effort seems to dovetail with that of Supervisor Tom Patti in his bid to step up the pace of re-opening businesses getting hammered by pandemic rules. Even though many non-essential businesses were allowed to open with curbside service, elected leaders such as Patti believe if rigorous protocols in place at “essential” concerns such as supermarkets were imposed on non-essential businesses they should be allowed to have customers enter stories especially given the county’s low infection and death rates. Those rules include employee precautions, deep cleaning, social distancing, and limiting the number of customers in the store at one time. The city would add the caveat of customers being required to wear face masks.

The argument is based on the fact stores that aren’t supermarkets such as those that sell flowers, clothing, and furniture have a lot less foot traffic therefore the risk of spreading COVID-19 is even lower if all protocols are followed.  Such businesses also rely heavily on customers being able to see and inspect items for sale as well as sales that come from browsing.

Patti on Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting pushed for the county to borrow language from a Placer County resolution that urges the governor to tone down his original statewide emergency by noting counties are now in a position by taking measures the state originally ordered to manage the ongoing COVID-19 situation on a county-by-county basis.

The Manteca City Council when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. for what Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon said will likely be their last pubic Zoom council meeting with the council members sequestered in their homes and the public’s only access being able to view the proceedings via a livestream will be asked by San Joaquin County to support such a resolution.

Blackmon said exact details for the first council meeting in June haven’t been worked out but it will likely involve council members being six feet apart and possibly separated by Plexiglass sheets. As for the audience every other chair or some other configuration will be used to assure social distancing. The meeting would still be livestreamed via the city’s website and carried on Comcast 97.

There were 8 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 over a 72-hour period as of 5 p.m. Monday in San Joaquin County. That brings the number of cases to 644 so far with 511 recovered and 138 still ill.

There were 4 new hospital admissions last week. There were 22 COVID-19 patients at all hospitals in the county as of Monday at 5 p.m. There have been 153 people admitted to the hospital at various times so far during the pandemic. Of those there were 63 that were in intensive care units including two from last week.

While the council on Tuesday is expected to reauthorize the local emergency resolution, Lutzow said the city’s emergency operations center is scaling back operations to the point the only fulltime people assigned to it will be public information officers.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email