Our physical buildings may be temporarily inaccessible, but Colusa County remains VERY MUCH OPEN! I was disappointed that this week’s edition of the Pioneer Review reported otherwise. Given the seriousness of the current circumstances, and the importance of communicating transparent, accurate, and timely information to our residents, now is a time for partnership, not sensationalism.
The recent Shelter-In-Place Order is similar to Orders enacted in countless counties across the state, and nation. I want to thank our Public Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Burt, for his thoughtful, measured approach in enacting an Order that protects our community, and still allows for the execution of essential business and services. I want to thank our Public Health Department for tackling this pandemic head-on, and for working tirelessly to ensure that our community is safe. The Public Health Department is working diligently to ensure that our medical providers have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that they need to properly care for our residents, and developing campaigns and educational materials to provide information and resources to businesses and residents in the county, all while continuing to answer phones and respond to emails.
In addition, I am proud of the time, effort, and commitment that our County employees have put into transitioning to a virtual service provider model in an effort to protect the public, while still remaining available to serve them. The delivery mechanism may be different, but the services are still being provided, and we are grateful for the support that we’ve received from the community as we navigate this transition together.
Our team is stepping up to meet this moment, and should be recognized for doing so. I am proud of our organization, our community, and our dedication and commitment to service. I invite the Pioneer Review to join us in this effort.
WENDY G. TYLER
County Administrative Officer
County of Colusa
I thank you for your letter. As the owner and publisher of the Pioneer Review, I, along with my editor, Susan Meeker, believe that it is important for our readers to contribute their opinion whenever they feel the need.
I am sorry that you were disappointed that our headline in the April 15 edition of the Pioneer review stated ‘Colusa County CLOSED’.
While I believe you misread the intentions of the headline, the actual story did not claim that the ‘County of Colusa’ as a government entity is closed; but the workings and daily lives of Colusa County residents are closed.
The headline was derived from details outlined in the recent ‘extended and expanded’ order from the Colusa County Public Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Burt.
That order, dated April 10, prohibited all non-essential gatherings of ‘any’ number of individuals and ordered a cessation of all non essential travel.
The order stated that all individuals currently living within Colusa County are ordered to remain at their place of residence.
The order also prohibits all public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household or living unit.
The order prohibited all unnecessary travel, including, but not limited to, travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit.
It also precisely stated that failure to comply with any of the provisions of the order ‘constitutes a punishable offense by fine, or imprisonment, or both’.
If a resident of this county cannot leave their home, visit a friend or relative without the fear of being fined, imprisoned, or both, then the fact is, COLUSA COUNTY is CLOSED.
Great care and consideration was taken on writing the headline. Based on fact, the headline was very fitting to say the least.
I agree that many of the county services and departments are still operating. Prior to the publication of the April 15, newspaper, I contacted you about publishing the list of county departments, their contact information, and their hours of operation. I would believe publication of the directory of county departments would have further clarified that the County of Colusa government is still in operation. The days following the publication of our newspaper, I have received positive responses to the County of Colusa directory with requests from readers for it to be published often. So thank you for your agreement on running that information for this last issue of the Pioneer Review.
As a fellow resident of Colusa County, I ask you to take a moment and forget your title as CAO of the County of Colusa, and realize the negative impacts the extended and expanded order has imposed on the lives of our residents, our businesses, and our local economy.
In the press release distributed by the County of Colusa in regard to the new extended and expanded order, it stated, “The current public health emergency has substantially worsened since the County issued the prior directive”. I find the evidence lacking. Based on a timeline, as expected with current events, on March 19, the county announced its first health directive. On March 27, the county announced its first case of a SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus patient with COVID-19 symptoms. At the time the new extended and expanded order was released on April 10, the county had just three non-hospitalized cases.
Coincidentally, the new extended and expanded order was released on a Friday, within hours of enforcement, and prior to the Easter Holiday. This extended and expanded order frightened many county residents into believing that they would be cited or arrested for simply participating in an at home Easter egg hunt with their children in their own yards.
Why was there a need to lockdown our residents, inciting fears of fines and imprisonment when we had just three confirmed cases in a county of 21,000?
I find that the County Public Health Officer’s recent extended and expanded order, imposing fines and imprisonment of our residents, seems to be an extraordinary overstep of authority and a violation of our civil rights and liberties. You stated that the new extended and expanded order ‘is similar to Orders enacted in countless counties across the state and nation,’ but I find that to be no more than sensationalism. The Sutter County Board of Supervisors, or neighbors, is asking the Governor to allow rural counties to reopen immediately.
As Colusa County residents, we are a resilient bunch of individuals. I might be bold and say we are stubborn. And the best part of our small county is that we care for our fellow neighbors. We step up in the times of need and reach out and assist our neighbors. Myself, my staff, and many of our readers can agree that the prior health order was more than substantial for the daily life in Colusa County based on our local circumstances. We appeared to be doing just fine.
As a newspaper publisher, as an advocate for our civil rights and our liberties, and a proud defender of the United States Constitution, I question: Why are we allowing an unelected official to make important decisions for our county residents?
As you stated, ‘given the seriousness of the current circumstances, and the importance of community transparency, accurate and timely information to our residents,’ this newspaper is your ally on this common goal. However, this newspaper is not your enemy. It is our job, and our duty, to collect information, question that information, and report on our factual findings. We are not a propaganda machine. That is the job of Facebook.
Wendy, I will wholeheartedly applaud your continuous efforts in working with the Pioneer Review and providing us with information, but this partnership needs to expand beyond your office to your fellow county government agencies and programs, as well as our cities and their government agencies, our county schools districts, our local special districts and other government agencies.
When you speak of transparency, the County of Colusa’s Department of Public Health has lacked in providing important statistical information on its website. Most notable only reporting the current number of active cases. What about the number being treated, in recovery, died and/or hospitalized? At one point the CCDPH provided the number of individuals under investigation; but removed it for unknown reasons and stated they would “only be reporting confirmed cases.” If the county is following the lead of other counties, then why isn’t our county reporting the same information they are? However, in order to provide our readers this very important data, this newspaper submitted a public records request and reported those numbers in the April 15 edition.
I have publicly agreed with the CCHHS Director Elizabeth Kelly that our residents should not focus on the numbers, but treat as if everyone is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus and maintain social distancing and hygiene protocols. However, the public deserves the right to know real statistics in order to enable them to navigate their daily lives.
Secondly, I would argue that the County of Colusa held a press conference without the media. On March 20, County Board of Supervisors Chair Denise Carter released a YouTube video with the County Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Burt. In my opinion as a journalist, the video was a method of fearmongering, as the county had no confirmed cases at the time of the video’s release.
You speak of campaigns and educational materials, none of which we have seen. Where are these educational materials and campaigns otherwise distributed?
This newspaper, the only locally-owned newspaper in Colusa County, is not always given timely and accurate information from our government agencies and its departments. In recent months, many departments have started posting ‘press releases’ to their Facebook or Social Media pages without sending those releases to the press or to this newspaper. We are often treated as a secondary source for disseminating information, and that is only should a department official or administrator deem us ‘important.’ We have great methods to contact and disseminate information from not only our printed newspaper, our website, our email lists, and social media.
Given the seriousness of our current circumstances, this newspaper is taking all matters very seriously. We are actively seeking and reporting on the events occurring in our county. Wendy, you have my email address, you have my phone number, and you are welcomed to call our office, email, or stop by (when it’s not illegal for you to do so), and let’s work together in keeping our community informed.
To reiterate, if a resident of this county cannot leave their home, visit a friend or relative, participate in a sporting or recreational activity, visit a salon, or spa, or shop at a local retail store, stroll in our community parks, or willfully participate in a entertainment venue without the fear of being fined and imprisoned, then the truth and the fact is, COLUSA COUNTY is CLOSED.
In the coming weeks, I hope that we’re able to re-open our community, let our businesses get back to work, and resume the Colusa County life we all have come to love.
Stay safe Wendy; we have work to do. Now, go wash your hands.
Lloyd Green Jr.
Williams Pioneer Review
310 5th Street, Colusa, CA 95932
(530) 458-4141 Ext. 100