Covid curbs: Ro Khanna challenger, businesses sue California




A congressional candidate and some business owners have sued the state of California against the various restrictions on businesses imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit, by Ritesh Tandon, the Republican challenger to Congressman Ro Khanna from District 17, and others against California Public health and Santa Clara County, alleges the state’s restrictions on various activities are arbitrary and irrational.

It calls the restrictions a “violation of the First Amendment – Right to Free Speech and Assembly.”

The plaintiffs in the case, filed in the US District of Northern California October 13, said they were individuals who seek to exercise their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to exercise their religion, engage in political speech, and earn a living.

They have alleged that because of the emergency orders issued by the governor, the California Department of Public Health and Santa Clara County officials, they cannot do so.

The lawsuit claims that Covid-19 has not spread at anything approaching the feared rate, and that the disease is far less deadly than initially estimated.

It cites that hospitalizations in the state resulting from Covid-19 have never exceeded 10 percent of total capacity and no mutual aid region has ever been established. The data on California government-run shows the hospitalization rates have plummeted to roughly one-third of their peak in late July, the lawsuit says, adding that according to the metrics historically used to measure the severity of an epidemic, there is no ongoing state of emergency in California.

Tandon told indica News the restrictions severely hamstrung him as a congressional candidate.

“The orders ban me from indoor political gatherings and limit outdoor assemblies to no more than three households.  I have not hosted an in-person political event since the defendant’s [state’s] ban on gatherings,” Tandon said.

I want the defendants to trust my abilities to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the same way they trust liquor stores and NFL players to do the same. If allowed to host in-person political assemblies, I intend to comply with the same health and hygiene standards that the defendants apply to schools and many businesses,” he said.

He also promised to comply with social-distancing guidelines, sterilize the venue frequently, instruct attendees to wear masks and provide gloves, screens, or other devices to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In the lawsuit, Tandon stated that to make matters worse, social media platforms have announced that they will not host political ads during the most important time in an election, one week before the vote.

He was effectively silenced while his opponent, by virtue of his incumbency, can exploit free media coverage, Tandon claimed.

Another plaintiff, Dhruv Khanna, is a wine maker.

He owns Miranda Wines, LLC (doing business as Kirigin Cellars) in Santa Clara County which produces small-batch wines, but a large component of its business is hosting events.

He says because of the limitations imposed by the state and county on gatherings events the business has been devastated. In the lawsuit, he says he had to cancel 30 events due to Santa Clara’s “more restrictive” provisions.

Santa Clara’s mandatory directive “prohibits any gatherings from occurring indoors.”

The directive permits worship services, cultural ceremonies, protests, and political events outdoors subject to the requirements, but they may not occur indoors.

Relying on CDPH’s prohibitions, Santa Clara’s mandatory directive also restricts familial, cultural, traditional, and historic gatherings associated with weddings.

The lawsuit also says the state directives are not clear when it comes to religious ceremonies.

The state says faith-based services may be held outdoor as long as “coverings are worn and people are physically distanced and indoor operations are permitted by relevant local restrictions and must comply with all applicable attendance limitations and guidance requirements.”

The lawsuit says: “It is unclear, however, where religious services may be held because CDPH does not define “place of worship.” Nor is it clear what qualifies as a “religious ceremony.” Someone wishing to host a Bible Study in their backyard, for example, cannot determine from the text of the orders whether such a gathering is permissible.”