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Shasta County wants to reopen its economy starting next week.
That’s probably not going to happen.
Nonetheless, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom that lobbies him to locally lift some of the stay-at-home restrictions that have been in place for more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It would include allowing non-essential businesses to open Sunday.
Supervisor Mary Rickert (Photo: Mike Chapman/Record Searchlight)
California, however, is “weeks, not months away” from being ready to get to that point of reopening businesses and returning people to work based on a four-phase plan Newsom outlined at his press briefing also on Tuesday.
Supervisors and health officials made it clear that it’s Newsom’s call.
“This is simply a letter to the governor,” board Chairwoman Mary Rickert said. “We don’t have any control over the governor’s decisions.”
Related: Shasta ready to join other rural counties seeking to reopen economy
Health and Human Services Agency Director Donnell Ewert said, “Any headlines out there or perceptions that Shasta County is going to do whatever they want is unfounded.”
The governor said non-essential retail and manufacturing would be the first businesses to open when the state modifies its stay-at-home order. But he did not give an opening date.
“We believe we are weeks, not months away from making meaningful modifications,” he said.
Places like hair and nail salons, and gyms, where there is physically closer contact, are probably months, not weeks away from opening, Newsom said.
Under his plan, local governments will be allowed to enforce stricter reopening rules, but not lesser ones.
Supervisor Les Baugh (Photo: Mike Chapman/Record Searchlight)
While loosening restrictions on non-essential businesses, Shasta County in its letter to the governor states that it would maintain stay-at-home orders for people 65 and older and those with underlying medical conditions, while allowing gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor recreation with social distancing by next week.
County officials contend that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is low and the local hospitals haven’t been overwhelmed. There were just 125 reported cases in the 13 county North State as of April 27, the letter states.
“The letter does not say, run out from your homes and invade every place that you possibly can and cause and spread and create challenges in your life,” Supervisor Les Baugh said. “The message I want to send out to our community is if you are at risk, stay home. Period. You are not being asked to go out of your home.”
More testing will be key to reopening economy
The county received a few public comments of support and criticism before Tuesday’s vote. Some were concerned about the need for more testing locally.
County health officials said that broader testing will start Thursday.
Boosting testing rates and monitoring virus cases and deaths are all part of the first phase in the governor’s plan.
Related: Coronavirus updates: Test site coming to Shasta County
Dr. Karen Ramstrom is the new Health Officer for Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency. (Photo: Contributed by Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency)
Shasta County is one of about 80 state-run testing sites. The site is scheduled to be set up at Shasta College on Wednesday, Public Health Officer Karen Ramstrom told the supervisors.
Testing will be run by OptumServe, a company partnering with the state, and will be by appointment only. Healthcare workers will be the first group to receive testing for those not showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Initially, OptumServe will test 132 people a day with ability to eventually test more than 500 people daily, Ramstrom said.
Meanwhile, statewide, the stabilization of hospital and intensive care unit admissions due to the coronavirus are cause for optimism, Newsom said.
“People have taken seriously, overwhelmingly, the stay-at-home orders and physical distancing,” Newsom said. But the governor cautioned that “if we pull back too quickly … it could start a second wave that can be even more damaging than the first and that could undo all the progress” the state has made.
More: Can national parks reopen by Memorial Day weekend? Lassen, Whiskeytown gearing up to do so
Here are the four phases in the governor’s plan:
- Phase 1: Under the current stage, most people are ordered to stay at home except for essential outings. Newsom wants to boost the rate of testing, pass out more protective equipment, beef up health care services and continue monitoring coronavirus illnesses and deaths.
- Phase 2: The next step, which Newsom said will come in the next few “weeks, not months,” includes reopening nonessential retail stores, manufacturing, child care and schools — possibly as early as late July or early August. Residents during this time will be urged to cut nonessential travel and employees should continue working from home when possible. The state will enter this phase once a widespread tracing system is in place, allowing local government officials to identify and test people who came in contact with infected people.
- Phase 3: Unlike states that are already allowing such services to restart, services like hair and nail salons are still months away from reopening, Newsom said. In the third phase, fitness clubs, spas, nail salons, hair salons and barbershops that require much more personal contact will be able to reopen.
- Phase 4: Mass crowd events like conventions, concerts and sporting events won’t come until a later date, and it won’t be soon, under the state plan. Don’t expect them until there is a vaccine or widespread immunity.
One-size-fits-all approach not the way to go
Jake Mangas, president of the Redding Chamber of Commerce, said he is hopeful the governor will see Shasta and other rural counties coming together “with a common voice” and perhaps give some consideration to local control and not apply a one-size approach.
Mangas is part of a committee of community leaders who are planning how to reopen the local economy once the state changes its stay-at-home order. Mangas also has started meeting with 30 businesses for feedback to bring to the “Roadmap to Recovery” advisory committee.
Redding Chamber of Commerce President Jake Mangas and Shasta County Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom explain the Road to Recovery advisory committee.
Redding Record Searchlight
With Black Bear Diner CEO Bruce Dean and C.R. Gibbs American Grille managing partner Ed Rullman leading the way, the business group has discussed what restaurant dining might look like when the economy reopens.
Limiting hours of operation, suggesting customers wait in their vehicles for a table rather than in a sitting area, bolstering sanitation efforts, workers wearing masks, recommending that guests wear masks and bar stools at least 6 feet apart are among the measures that have been discussed, Mangas said.
“We believe that having the advisory committee and (business) subcommittee will allow us to reopen these businesses more quickly, and we will be ready to go when we get the greenlight,” Mangas said.
More: Some Shasta County residents anxiously wonder: Why aren’t more people wearing face masks?’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
David Benda covers business, development and anything else that comes up for the USA TODAY Network in Redding. He also writes the weekly “Buzz on the Street” column. He’s part of a team of dedicated reporters that investigate wrongdoing, cover breaking news and tell other stories about your community. Reach him on Twitter @DavidBenda_RS or by phone at 1-530-225-8219. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.
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