The Colusa County board of supervisors last week said enough is enough to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “blueprint for a safe reopening” of the economy.
Despite the downward trend of COVID-19 across the nation, Colusa County is still in the “purple” tier on the state’s blueprint, which places onerous restrictions on businesses and schools.
County officials said the state’s one-size-fits-all blueprint to reopening communities and schools has proven to be a failed approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Tuesday, Colusa County had just 21 active cases of COVID-19 (in a population of over 20,000) in isolation, which the state still considers “widespread” in terms of the disease.
The board of supervisors, in a resolution approved March 2, said Colusa County is too geographically diverse, making it ill-suited for the countywide restrictions that are imposed by the state.
The board of supervisors said the governor should enable Colusa County’s response to the pandemic to be “tailored” to local conditions. The county had achieved the “red” status on March 8, but was returned to purple on March 9 after a 14th death was attributed to the virus.
“I know there is a lot of frustration out there with the public,” said Supervisor Merced Corona, who believes it’s time to open up and return children to school.
North state Assemblymembers James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley have been the most critical of the state’s “Blueprint” because it failed since the beginning to allow rural counties the flexibility to respond to the pandemic – and the negative impacts of the shutdown – in a data-driven way.
The board of supervisors agree.
“Supporting this resolution and the efforts of Gallagher and Kiley would be a smart move,” Corona said. “I also think people are fed up and we need in the near future – if not now – to start coming up with some bold moves of our own, just to let people know we are not against them. We are for opening businesses and for opening the entire county further than what we have.”
While some local businesses have disregarded the state’s guidelines, others have complied with the state’s restrictions. Local school districts have also limited in-person education, and many students remain out of the classrooms entirely as teachers leverage the pandemic for higher salaries and benefits.
County officials said as a result, the near yearlong lockdown has not only caused substantial damages to the economy, but to the physical and mental health of individuals and children in the community.
According to the resolution, county officials have verified a significant increase in drug use, delayed medical care, depression among youth, and an overall increase (as much as 75 percent) in the need for mental health services.
Rhonda Myers, a local educational psychologist, said in a four-page letter to the board of supervisors, that the harm done by the shutdown to children could be irreparable, and that distant and limited in-person education in schools “breaks with everything that we know from decades of research on good pedagogical practice.”
“I want to bluntly state that there is a crisis among our youth, and Colusa County doesn’t have the capacity to address the educational, physical, and behavioral health needs that will result from California’s response to the pandemic if we don’t take immediate action,” Myers said. “My assessment of the emotional state of our youth is that most children are barely getting by, and this is unacceptable. Some of the children, who were the most emotionally and physically healthy before the pandemic lockdown went into effect, are no longer doing well at all.”
Myers said that school psychologists across the nations have observed an actual decrease in cognitive function and IQ scores among ages 3-22, which could be attributed to depression on a massive scale.
Myers also attributes the damage to the reduction in social interaction, limited physical exercise, less involvement in hobbies, church and clubs, and a limited ability for youth to interact with positive role models outside the family.
“I understand that some people in our community will remain dedicated to keeping the current level of COVID-19 restrictions in place based on the presumption that there are unknown long-term effects of contracting the virus,” Myers said. “I would counter that argument by saying that we are obligated to take immediate steps to diminish the known effects that these COVID-19 restrictions are having on our children.”
Myers said that if actions are not taken immediately to reverse the damaging effects of the shutdown, then children – and possibly the next generation – will potentially suffer greater consequences than the majority of people who ever contract the virus.
In adopting the resolution, the board of supervisors urged the school districts to open as soon as possible and to provide in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible without further delay.
The board also called for sports and all extra-curricular activities, such as the National FFA Organization and music, to be opened to in-person participation and competition.