SACRAMENTO — When California emerges from its coronavirus lockdown, the state’s often overlooked rural counties could be the first to open up rather than the nationally trendsetting San Francisco Bay Area.
Rural counties house roughly one-tenth of California’s nearly 40 million residents but comprise more than half its land mass. A greater share of inland residents have continued to work in essential sectors under social isolation orders, and many think their thinly populated communities are less vulnerable to Covid-19 spread and shouldn’t be held back by coastal cities. A distrust of Sacramento directives and a government helmed by liberal Gov. Gavin Newsom are also at play.
California’s divide could become a harbinger for how rural and coastal states ease their restrictions in different ways with less populated areas lifting closures sooner than denser cities. Escalating frustration among conservatives over stay-at-home-orders’ impacts on the economy has led to protests across the country, and similar demonstrations have been organized in pockets of California.
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