Thirty-two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, counties across California are forming coalitions to challenge what they say is prolonged top-down rule from Sacramento.

Officials from 12 rural counties gathered Thursday for the “Conference of North State Representatives,” an event aimed at “restor(ing) representative democracy for our citizens.” On the agenda: challenging the state’s public health guidelines, charting a path to reopen schools and businesses, and protesting Newsom’s withholding of federal coronavirus funds from local governments that don’t comply with state orders. The conference was organized by five Republican lawmakers, including Assemblymembers James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley, who are currently challenging one of Newsom’s executive orders in court.

  • Gallagher told me: “There’s a lot of broad consensus among the counties that … we should be able to return to local control of the crisis and not be stuck under this (tiered reopening) metric for the long term.”

In Southern California, Riverside County is pushing for a partnership of its own. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a report that calls on the region to band together and communicate to Sacramento “the devastating impacts” of the state’s tiered reopening system.

  • Supervisor Kevin Jeffries“There is the potential that certain counties are getting preferential treatment. Generally, if you’re Bay Area, you’re treated in much higher regard, much more respect. And the inland counties, you’re basically poorer counties and, ‘Good luck, you’re on your own.’”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The push for more local flexibility comes amid a slight statewide uptick in coronavirus cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions after months of decline. Californians traveling to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut now have to quarantine for two weeks after arrival, the three states announced this week — about a month after the Golden State was removed from their quarantine list.

Nevertheless, California’s coronavirus positivity rate of 3.2% over the past seven days remains significantly below the national average of 6.3%.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 912,904 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17,541 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

By Emily Hoeven. Originally published on CalMatters. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. CalMatters health care coverage is supported by a grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation.