California’s coronavirus testing ground: Is this the kind of place that’s ready to reopen for business?

California’s coronavirus testing ground: Is this the kind of place that’s ready to reopen for business?

HANFORD — There was a huge outbreak this month at the local meat-packing plant in this Central Valley community that’s home to miles of sprawling dairies and cattle farms. The number of coronavirus cases has continued to surge over the past week, and the number of COVID-19 patients at the county’s hospitals have been climbing all month long. Does Kings County sound like the kind of place that’s ready to reopen for business? That’s exactly what happened this week, when the state surprised even locals by giving its blessing to move ahead with easing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home restrictions — although Kings County is on the wrong side of the state’s latest benchmarks for reopening. Now, this tiny county, population 150,000 and with 488 recorded cases, has become an unlikely testing ground as California tries to unshackle its economy. What does it take to be safe to reopen? County Supervisor Doug Verboon insists local businesses won’t be recklessly opening their doors. But even he was surprised by the state’s decision. “It caught us off-guard,” said Verboon, a fourth generation farmer who led the effort to petition the state for a variance to reopen despite Kings County’s rising coronavirus numbers. “We didn’t think we’d ever meet the criteria, but the state kept moving guidelines, so we’re real happy.” The coronavirus shutdowns have crippled the local economy here, shuttering the civic auditorium and teen center in Hanford and mom-and-pop shops like the Court barbershop and From ...
More on: www.mercurynews.com