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Republicans are jumping on a recall campaign against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom over his handling of the pandemic, including public health orders which shut down many businesses. 

Supervisor Don Wagner, a chief local critic of the health orders, has joined the effort as an honorary chair of the campaign. 

“Newsom is single-handedly destroying our precious state,” Wagner said in a Wednesday news release. “We need to end the economic and societal suffering of Californians, but nothing is going to change unless we cut the head off the beast!”

A host of former Republican party officials are also involved with the efforts, including former California GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and Reagan era state Republican Chairman Frank Visco. Former LA County Supervisor and state Republican Chairman Mike Antonovich is also on board. 

The news release said roughly 800,000 signatures have been gathered in an effort to get nearly 1.5 million signatures to place the recall on a ballot. 

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Wagner leveled criticism against the regional stay home order. 

“The truth is, our own elected officials don’t believe whatever the current rule is, is in fact necessary. How do we know that? they don’t believe in the danger. Otherwise, Gavin Newsom doesn’t go to the French Laundry,” Wagner said, referring to a dinner last month Newson went to with lobbyists and others not in his household. 

Wagner and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett successfully got their colleagues to adopt a resolution lobbying Newsom for local control over public health measures, like the shut down. 

“I support the individual responsibility by our residents,” Bartlett said. 

She said the economy suffers from businesses reopening and closing again. 

“We need to reopen our economy, we can’t keep reopening and closing,” Bartlett said. “The businesses need to stay open … it’s too detrimental and it’s terrible for the workforce to be hired and fired. So we got to look at a more balanced approach.” 

Supervisors also hit on a key criticism of the state order — the mixed message it sends, prohibiting outdoor dining but permitting indoor malls and department stores to remain open.

At a Tuesday news conference, secretary of state Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said the decision to keep malls and retailers open stems from the need “to not do what we did the first time, which really was to isolate the experience to just a few retailers where we saw large numbers of people gathering indoors.” 

Under this new order, “we tried to a create a system that allows a variety of retailers to be open and operating so that customers, consumers, the public could go to places where we weren’t seeing such densely populated stores,” Ghaly said, adding: “And our hope is that that’s what we’ll see over what is a critical period for retailers.”

The regional order went into effect late Sunday because Southern California’s available intensive care unit beds dipped below 15%.

The order shut down nonessential businesses like barbers and beauty parlors. It also closed outdoor dining, but restaurants can still do take out and delivery. 

Southern California’s ICU capacity hit 9% on Wednesday, according to the state Department of Public Health. 

And Orange County has 11.2% of its ICU beds available as of Wednesday. 

Many businesses are defying the orders. 

The order also shutdown outdoor playgrounds and nixed overnight camping, although hiking is allowed and outdoor recreational facilities remain open. 

State public health officials quietly reversed the playground closures Wednesday. 

Unlike March’s stay home order, the new regional shut down didn’t close department stores or malls — shops considered nonessential by state guidelines. 

And public health experts worry those shops — along with private gatherings — are adding to the exploding case rates and hospitalizations across California and the surrounding states. 

Doctors and public health experts interviewed by Voice of OC over the past couple weeks said the first stay home orders worked because it spread out hospitalizations over time, buying hospitals more time to prepare for incoming virus patients.

This wave hit seemingly all at once. 

UC Irvine epidemiologist Sanghyuk Shin said the order should’ve been issued sooner and malls and department stores should’ve been shut down because the virus is so prevalent in the community. 

“Absolutely. To be honest, I think some of the specific guidelines — it’s hard to know where the justification is coming from. I haven’t seen any data that suggests that smaller businesses are at higher risk of having transmission events compared to these larger stores.” 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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