Atwater’s City Council has unanimously declared the city a “business sanctuary city”, announcing that “non-essential” businesses, NGOs, and churches can reopen without having to wait for California Governor Gavin Newsom’s blessing.
The vote, which ended with a standing ovation, will enable city residents who desperately need to start work in order to pay rent, mortgage, and/or other important bills to so do.
At the same time, it’s not without risks. The state of California licenses businesses such as restaurants, bars, and salons, and it could revoke these licenses in retaliation for businesses opening sooner than the state government would like.
There is also a possibility of legal action. When Los Alamitos, another city in California, voted to declare itself exempt from the state’s sanctuary city policy a couple of years ago, the ACLU threatened a lawsuit. In this instance, the Democratic Socialists of America are already publicly condemning the decision, accusing the city of putting profits above the health and safety of its workers.
Naturally, there is also the possibility that people will become infected with the novel coronavirus if people leave home; however, the threat is minimal. The entire county has only had about 200 cases of COVID-19. States such as Florida and Georgia have partially reopened their businesses without seeing the exponential rise in cases and an overwhelmed health care system that the experts warned about.
While there is certainly a risk of catching COVID-19, there is also a very real risk that small business owners will lose their livelihood permanently if they can’t get back to work. If these business owners have to shut down, the workers the DSA says it is so concerned about would be out of a job at the worst possible moment.
Governor Newsom has started a staggered reopening of the state’s economy but made it clear that restrictions will stay in place until there is a vaccine. However, as Dr. Anthony Fauci recently pointed out, there is no guarantee that a COVID-19 vaccine will be effective. In fact, it could even make the coronavirus stronger than it already is as it does with common influenza strains.
In essence, a state that waits until there is a successful vaccine could be shut down indefinitely, leaving millions of people with no legal way to earn a living.
Thankfully, Atwater’s city council is allowing residents to live their lives as they see fit. This, after all, is the entire point of living in the United States of America.