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SAN DIEGO – Facing new restrictions brought on by a surge of recent coronavirus cases, local business and political leaders took aim Monday at Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state for guidelines they say unfairly punish businesses and schoolchildren.

“It’s a very important moment for San Diego County and for California,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said at a rally put on by ReOpen San Diego. “And it’s not really a choice between reopening businesses or saving lives — we can do both.”

New restrictions went into place for various industries Saturday after the county dropped down into the most restrictive purple tier. Under the new rules, many nonessential businesses including restaurants, gyms and churches, among others, now are required to move their operations outdoors while others such as retail businesses can remain open with 25% of the building’s capacity.

Remaining open are essential services, personal care services, barbershops, hair salons, outdoor playgrounds and recreational facilities.

Much of California now finds itself in a more restrictive state Monday after Newsom pulled the so-called “emergency brake” on its reopening efforts. The action requires masks be worn outside of homes with limited exceptions and drops 58 counties into the strictest of the state’s four-tier reopening system.

“The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes,” Newsom said.

But Desmond and others criticized Newsom’s response to the pandemic — with one speaker, Dr. Cordie Williams of the group 1776 Forever Free, referring to the governor as “Adolf Newsom, the Füehrer of the world.” Most argued that state-imposed restrictions are having a devastating impact on businesses.

Some also tweaked Newsom for recently attending a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant north of San Francisco, a decision which drew an apology from the governor Monday.

“People have become complacent due to inconsistent messages from the state, from the state constantly moving the goal posts from a tier system with no green stage or green light,” Desmond said. “We’ve got Gavin Newsom going to dinner parties with 12 other people and Nancy Pelosi going and getting her hair done when other people can’t.

“And they wonder why our case rates are going up, they wonder why our positivity is going up.”

Also speaking during the event was El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells who told the crowd that “there is more to living than being afraid to die.”

“Let’s just be completely honest: This is not about science and it’s not about medicine,” Wells said. “This is about politics.”

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey said it’s “a bad policy to criminalize small business owners.” He argued the group has been “demonized” by others for wanting to get back to work.

“We care about every life lost,” Bailey said. “We care about everyone that gets sick. We also care about the kids whose only hope at a better future is to get an education but they’re now falling further and further behind. We care about the number of people that are suffering from depression, substance abuse and poverty.

“But we also care about the small business owners now faced with this impossible choice of closing up shop — possibly for good — or risking fines from the very government that’s supposed to be representing them.”

Peter San Nicolas was the first county business owner to be criminally charged for keeping his Ramona gym operating when guidelines mandated closure or operating outdoors only.

“I got them all waved, but I’m back at zero so I’m putting a target on my back,” San Nicolas said. “However I think it’s important that businesses – we stand up for ourselves.”

Another topic mentioned by several speakers was about schools and issues related to distance learning.

Helen Hollis, a parent of a 13-year-old, argued isolation contributes to mental illness in students and that they’ve “fear-mongered our children until they are so afraid they have permanent diagnoses.”

“You tell me how much you care about our children,” Hollis said. “You want to write about our children in cages? Guess what? Our children are in their homes in cages, right? I mean, don’t tell me for a minute you care about our children’s rights … when you have my son at home scared to death.”