ATWATER, Calif. -- The City of Atwater has declared itself a "sanctuary city" for all businesses, allowing owners to open despite the state of California's stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Atwater City Council voted on the resolution on Friday afternoon, saying it, "Affirms the city's commitment to fundamental constitutional rights."
"This is America. You have the choice. It's time for the government to stop dictating another month, another three months, six months," said Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton. "When is it going to end? When everyone is bankrupt?"
Non-profit organizations, such as churches, are also allowed to reopen under the new resolution.
With Friday's decision, Atwater says that businesses within its city limits have the right to open, but that doesn't mean everyone will exercise that right.
A significant complication: the protections are only at the city level. Businesses regulated by the state, including bars, nail and hair salons, could lose their licenses for opening, so many may choose to wait it out.
"We're not looking to jeopardize anyone's business. That's a license you hold with the state of California. So, we don't want to cause any harm there, use your best judgment," Mayor Creighton said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that the state had moved into the beginnings of the second stage of opening, allowing for low-risk non-essential businesses to resume operations.
Counties that feel their area is ahead of California's curve are required to meet certain guidelines to move further into Phase 2. Merced County is not one of the counties approved to do so.
The sanctuary city doesn't limit its protections for local businesses; non profits like churches can open their doors as well.
Victory Baptist church pastor Richard Miller says outdoor services will take place this Sunday. He moved his services online at the onset of Coronavirus.
"It's actually helped us to be more educated on how to keep things clean and reach out to people who can't make it out to church," Miller said.
That education brings modifications like reserved seating, taking someone's temperature upon arrival, and face masks if needed.
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