San Bernardino County received clearance today from the governor’s office to reopen and move deeper into Stage 2. The state works on the weekends and issued the clearance Saturday afternoon during Memorial Day weekend.

County officials submitted the necessary paperwork on Friday, with officials stating that  an answer was expected within 24 hours. It wasn’t clear if state officials would be working during the holiday weekend.

“San Bernardino County businesses and residents worked very hard and made tremendous sacrifices to make this moment possible,” said Curt Hagman, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. “Your efforts to keep our community safe and healthy have paid off. We can now proceed significantly further toward resuming our normal lives.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the Big Bear Lake City Council voting to issue a statement that the city would not enforce the governor’s stay at home order effective May 21. That allowed city businesses to act on their own if they chose to open their doors for business, allow dine-in seating at restaurants or book hotel rooms.

Being a holiday weekend, it appeared the visitors began flocking to the Valley on May 22. The Village was crowded and many stores were open, but not all. Restaurants were creative, offering take out with dining on patios but no service.

Frank Rush, Big Bear Lake city manager, was asked on May 22 what it would mean for the city of Big Bear Lake if the county were to obtain its clearance during the weekend or in the near future. Rush said the City Council took the action on May 21 because he was told the county wouldn’t be submitting its application for variance until next Wednesday. If the county were to receive clearance early, Rush said the then city officials would need to re-evaluate its position. The city falls under the countywide authority, Rush confirmed.

Attempts to reach Rush on May 23 were unsuccessful.

During the May 21 special meeting, Rush told the council that if the governor were to approve the city’s plan for re-opening, which was submitted several days prior, the city would absolutely enforce that plan. The city urged businesses to follow the plan, but did not implement it as part of its action May 21 because that would be in defiance of the governor’s order. The City Council action only stated the city would not enforce the governor’s order, but it didn’t put it’s own plan in place of the governor’s.

With the clearance given to San Bernardino County to move deeper into Stage 2, there are still limitations to what can open. Destination retail, including shopping malls and swap meets, and dine-in restaurants can open. Face coverings and physical distancing, along with other guidelines are in place for various businesses. The guidelines can be found here.

Bars, wineries, hotels and motels, gyms, hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, movie theaters, sports and entertainment venues, libraries and public swimming facilities are not allowed to open under this stage. The governor said he expects to issue guidelines for salons and gyms, as well as other industries next week.

Some gyms in Big Bear have announced they are opening on Monday, May 25, including 7K CrossFit and BodyTek. The former is in the city of Big Bear Lake, the latter in the unincorporated area in Big Bear City.

The city’s plan doesn’t distinguish by type of business that can open, feeling that all businesses should be allowed to operate under specific guidelines for safety. However, in issuing the statement, and in adopting its plan, city leaders noted that business owners needed to take responsibility and assume the risk for opening, especially those that are licensed in some way by the state. Those include restaurants, salons, gyms and amusement parks, for example.

Michael Perry, CEO for Visit Big Bear, issued a message to on May 22 urging Big Bear businesses to follow the guidelines of the city’s plan even in light of the City Council’s action. That would prevent the businesses having to go backward as changes occurred.

Rush told The Grizzly May 22 that the city and county worked hard to abide by the stay-at-home order, keep people safe, flatten the curve and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each also worked hard on readiness and re-opening plans, he said. But businesses and residents were suffering after 10 weeks, Rush said. It’s time to find a way to push back toward the middle, not before COVID-19, but somewhere in the middle, he said.

Rush agreed that Big Bear business owners would have probably opened in some fashion no matter what action the City Council took. “I want all the businesses to be open,” Rush said. He said he was hopeful and confident people would do the right thing and continue practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings where appropriate.

“This virus is still very present throughout our county state and nation, so we must remain vigilant by physical distancing, wearing face coverings and washing out hands often,” Hagman said.

Rush said he expects there will be more COVID-19 cases in Big Bear, which currently has nine confirmed cases. He said the difference is that preparation is better at this time and he doesn’t expect a second wave of the coronavirus to be more difficult to manage.

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