A group of Northstate legislators, county officials, and mayors of 14 cities sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday to ask him to ease restrictions of a statewide stay-at-home order so six counties can begin the soft reopening of the economy.
The Colusa Colusa Board of Supervisors, at a special meeting on Friday, signed onto a joint letter drafted by Assemblyman James Gallager and Sen. Jim Nielsen, which gained broad support also by the boards of Sutter, Butte, Tehama, Yuba, and Glenn counties.
The City of Williams, in Colusa County, has also signed onto the request.
As of Friday, 69 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in six counties with a population of 500,000, with 50 now fully recovered, officials said. There was only one confirmed COVID-19 patient in the ICU.
“California is weathering this pandemic well,” said Nielsen, in a statement. “In the North State, we have even fewer infections than those in other regions of the state. We must re-open our economy so Californians can get back to work. Families need to put food on the table and pay their rent and mortgage. Put simply, Californians need to continue living their best lives.”
Officials said not only has rural residents made extraordinary effort to maintain physical distancing to “flatten the curve,” the region has also proactively prepared for a worst-case scenario by boosting medical capabilities.
Officials said local public health data, in addition to our area’s ability to continue monitoring cases, should allow the counties to begin a “science-based” and thoughtful reopening, consistent with national guidelines, so local residents can get back to work.
“We all appreciate the quick action taken to flatten the curve of this virus,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher, in a statement. “That effort has been successfully implemented, but it has not been without great cost to our people and our future ability to provide for the health and prosperity of our communities. It is time to begin a reopening. Our cases are low, our healthcare capabilities have been beefed up, and we are ready to get our economy moving again.”
Other counties throughout California have already eased restrictions. Lake, Mendicino, and Napa on Thursday opened golf courses, drive-in religious services, real estate viewing, and all construction activities. Ventura and Orange County opened beaches over the past weekend.
Colusa County officials hope to soon reopen the golf courses and East Park Reservoir.
“We are making progress, and we are working on getting those plans in place,” said Chief Administrative Officer Wendy Tyler.
Board Chairwoman, Denise Carter, said she hoped the governor would recognize that all areas of the state are not the same, and that the Northstate has worked hard to keep their COVID-19 cases low.
“I want to make it clear that this support letter does not mean we are opening now, but request the governor to engage in the crucial discussion of reopening guidelines,” Carter said.
Carter said there has only been three cases of COVID-19, which has held the past two weeks.
“We are doing a great job keeping our curve flat, in part to our low density population, folks keeping that social distancing, wearing masks, using wipes, washing our hands, and all those other important things,” she said.
Public Health officials said they have also worked with the local hospital in the event there become a sudden surge of COVID-19 in Colusa County, but that they will hold with the shelter-in-place orders until the state gives them a green light.
“We have to keep in mind that as we all want this to end and we all want things to reopen, but we have to – as an agency and in supporting the county as well – comply with the state directives and orders.”
Kelly said that while the county would like to be accommodating to the public and community, they rely on the state for funding and medical supplies to address the pandemic.
“It’s just a fine dance for us,” said Kelly.
Other officials, however, said if the county does not reopen soon, the severe economic impacts could be long lasting.”
“I’ve gotten multiple calls from local businesses, including Granzella’s and a few others, and they are expressing the same concerns,” Supervisor Kent Boes said. “They would like to see the reopening of the local economy as soon as possible.”
In the letter, local officials ask the governor to allow them to exercise “local authority” to move forward.
“We know that prolonged recessions cause dire public health issues of their own,” the letter states. “The indirect impacts of this virus can cause a higher risk of heart disease, acute sleep deprivation, depression, decreased response to vaccines, and an increase in smoking and drinking alcohol.”
At Friday’s meeting, there were a few call-in comments and questions from the public, mostly regarding the ability of the local area to handle a medical emergency if there was a surge in COVID-19.
Carter said in addition to local preparedness, Butte County has 125 field hospital beds and supplies to treat patients, including those from Colusa. The Yuba-City area has 350.
Kelly added that while testing is not widespread and only available for systematic patients, Public Health would continue to monitor for COVID-19 cases.
About 39 Colusa County residents with symptoms have tested negative.
“We’ve asked a great deal of our residents in the past month, and they have risen to the challenge,” the letter states. “Now we must move to the next phase, which is economic recovery.”