As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, elected officials from across California gathered for a conference this weekend in Rancho Murieta to protest coronavirus-related restrictions and discuss ways to reopen the state’s economy.
The conference, in its second of three days, was held inside a covered horse arena at the Murieta Equestrian Center, and featured talks from Rep. Tom McClintock, an Elk Grove Republican representing areas of the Northern Sierra Nevada and foothills; Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin; and Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, all of whom have been critical of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sweeping restrictions on the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference was organized by Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost, who represents the northeastern area of the county, along with Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt and Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner.
Frost described the aim of the conference in terms of a common refrain heard from critics of the public health orders over the past several months — small businesses cannot handle such stringent lockdowns, especially now as indoor dining is banned in much of the state.
They also are concerned about the psychological impacts of months of isolation.
“I really am concerned about our small businesses, I’m concerned about our children — not only because they’re not in school but the isolation has been really hard on the children and the families,” Frost said. “We decided we wanted to do something responsible.”
The entryway to the equestrian stadium served as an inspection station as well, where the conference’s dozens of guests were checked for masks and were asked to check their temperature as well. It was so cold in Rancho Murieta Saturday morning, however — just a few degrees above freezing at 7 a.m. — that the electronic forehead-scanning devices could not get a read on anyone.
Inside the dirt oblong normally used for riding horse were a number of tables with chairs set around them. Each table was spaced several feet apart, although despite the attempts at social distancing, nonessential gatherings which bring together people from multiple households are still prohibited per the California Department of Public Health’s latest orders, which are active in Greater Sacramento.
Frost, however, voiced some skepticism at state coronavirus data.
“Our understanding is that there are increased deaths, increased hospitalizations, due to people who have chronic illnesses or they didn’t take care of their preventative testing,” Frost said. “What I like to tell people is, ‘There’s more than one way to die.’”
Her comments were made around the same time state health officials announced 695 Californians had died the day before from COVID-19, a single-day record. More than 29,000 people have died of the virus in California while nearly 1,000 people in Sacramento County have died of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
One speaker at the conference offered a medical rationale for the state’s reopening, suggesting that a contested medical treatment exists that would greatly reduce the harm of COVID-19. Dr. George Fareed, who previously testified before the U.S. Senate regarding potential coronavirus treatments, said that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs used effectively to treat malaria, could be used widespread for COVID-19.
“We can open up … because we do have an effective treatment for the vulnerable,” Fareed told the audience in attendance.
Several leading health agencies dispute this claim. On June 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked an emergency use authorization for the drugs for COVID-19 treatment, and later warned that they may in fact cause heart rhythm issues in certain settings. The National Institutes of Health also asserts that hydroxychloroquine does not help COVID-19 patients.
Local law enforcement in attendance
Both Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini spoke at a panel at the conference, discussing their shared motivations behind not enforcing public health orders — a move adopted by the vast majority of law enforcement agencies across California — as well as some of the issues uniquely faced by those agencies.
Jones, who tested positive for coronavirus last month, framed himself as a populist politician, beholden not to “unelected bureaucrats who we’ve never heard of and now are at the forefront of telling us what we can and can’t do or elected officials who don’t really have anything to do or care about constitutionality, probable cause or reasonable suspicion,” but his constituents.
“The people I am accountable to is you, the voters,” Jones said. “We’re not going to let anybody tell us what to do other than the will of the voting constituency.”
Attendants of the conference were scheduled to be bused to the Capitol for a permitted rally on the steps of the building before returning to the equestrian club. A small number of pro-Biden supporters were out in front of the Capitol ahead of their arrival, as well.
— to www.sacbee.com