Movement to the red tier was anticipated by Colusa County Public Health officials last week, based on an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases, but Gov. Gavin Newsom made it official on Monday when he announced that 41 counties would return to the most restrictive purple tier and 13 counties, including Colusa, would return to the red tier, after changing the rules of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
“Counties will move back after one week instead of two weeks,” Newsom said. “And because of the significant increase, some counties will move back multiple tiers.”
That means restaurants in Colusa County were ordered, as of Tuesday, to operate at 25 percent capacity, indoor retail stores (except for grocery stores) to operate at 50 percent, gyms to operate at 10 percent, bowling alleys to close, and all non-essential offices to work remotely.
Newsom, after apologizing for attending a large dinner party in Napa over the weekend in violation of the state’s guidelines, said Monday that people in purple or red-tier counties should not gather indoors with anyone outside their own households, including during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The state also beefed up its guidance on face coverings outside the home (except when alone in the car or office) and is also considering a curfew if COVID-19 cases continue to go up.
The state is also recommending that people travel only for essential activities.
As of last week, Colusa County had a 13.9 percent positivity rate. On Monday, the county reported 23 active cases and one hospitalization. As with state transmission, COVID is largely spread from individuals who work outside the home and then return to their families, officials said.
One of the factors in the recent increase in the number of people in isolation was COVID-19 confirmation among several workers and patients in the county’s only skilled nursing facility, county officials said.
“When that happens, our health care workers have to isolate and quarantine; not just them, but their families,” said Colusa County Health and Human Services Director, Elizabeth Kelly.
Kelly said it has been difficult to get cooperation from people to isolate who have been exposed to coronavirus but test negative to the disease.
“People don’t want to isolate,” Kelly said. “They think that because they tested negative that they don’t need to quarantine or isolate – or quarantine themselves from their own families within the household.”
Kelly said understandably, people tend to reject quarantine, even if alternative housing (hotel) is offered, even though it may be necessary to slow the spread of the disease.
“In order to stop community spread, that is what needs to happen,” she said.
More importantly, Kelly said those who are COVID-19 positive but not necessarily sick – or are feeling sick but not tested – should stay home in isolation.
“People think a scratchy throat isn’t a big deal, but it is a big deal for community spread,” she said. “Stay home if you are sick or think you’re sick.”
Meanwhile, a number of rural counties plan to band together to fight the state on what they believe are one-size-fits-all and arbitrary restrictions.
A Healthy Communities Resolution has been spearheaded by Assemblyman James Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen to be considered by 14 rural Boards of Supervisors.
Gallagher said rural counties’ biggest concerns were that the Governor’s blueprint had greatly impacted schools and businesses without any indication that they are the environments that are responsible for the COVID-19 cases.
At a North State Leaders Conference in Red Bluff in late October, Gallagher said the common thread in the discussion was the need to have local flexibility based on what is occurring in the local communities, which have not been well-served by the state’s Blueprint for a Safety Economy.
“The Governor and state bureaucrats can color code counties and change rules as they go, but the basics remain the same: We are all free people who can exercise our freedom responsibly,” Gallagher posted to social media on Monday. “The Government can only take what you let them. I don’t think you should close your business, church or school. I would encourage you to keep them open. I don’t think you need to cancel Thanksgiving. You are all responsible adults and you can decide what risks are acceptable for you and your family. Be considerate. Recognize that we are seeing another increase in cases. It is not because some restaurants have been open, it’s because that is what viruses do. In order to limit the spread, do your best to keep up on washing your hands, keeping distanced and wearing a facial covering when you can’t. We can and will overcome this as a free society.”
Most officials believe the coronavirus restrictions since March have had far worse impacts on the health and mental health of the population as a whole.
“Our county has seen increases in drug abuse, delayed medical care, depression among our youth, and the overall need for mental health services,” the Resolution states.
Rural counties are also asking the state for an extension beyond the Dec. 31 deadline to encumber and spend their federal CARES Act funds.