By Lynzie Lowe
Colusa County was moved into the less restrictive red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy system on Tuesday, allowing indoor operations at restaurants, gyms, fitness studios, places of worship and personal care services to resume with certain modifications.
According to Marcos Kropf, Colusa County Counsel, restaurants and places of worship can now operate indoor services at 25 percent capacity and gyms can resume indoor operations at ten percent capacity within the red tier. Bars, however, must remain closed at this time, said Kropf.
“Schools not already open under a waiver program will be able to open subject to state restrictions once the County has been in this tier for two weeks or by Oct. 27,” said Kropf.
This comes after Colusa County officials issued a release last week stating that the county was on track to move into the red tier “under new evaluation criteria announced by the state.”
COVID-19 cases within the county have been on the decline for weeks but under the state’s tier system, the county’s case rate per 100k residents and positivity rate metrics remained within the widespread range due to their small population size, preventing them from moving into a less restrictive tier.
Denise Carter, Colusa County Board of Supervisors chairperson, said she has spent the past few weeks worked to address this issue as part of the California State Association of Counties’ small rural working group.
Carter said the team of seven – consisting of four county supervisors, two Public Health Officers and two CAOs from different small counties across the state – met with Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Department, and Senator Dr. Richard Pan weekly via Zoom to discuss “the issues and concerns with the one-size-fits-all approach of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”
“Our candid and frank concerns for our small counties circled around the metrics not being realistic for rural counties,” said Carter.
According to Carter, rural counties were finding the state’s metric’s too low and difficult to maintain.
“One family infection can have a huge impact on our case rate,” said Carter.
She also noted that the local economy in rural communities is truly struggling while being within the restrictive purple tier for an extended period of time.
“These small business people are part of our community,” said Carter. “With winter coming, dining outside will be challenging.”
Carter said rural counties such as Colusa have not been experiencing hospitalization capacity issues as well, as very few are being hospitalized in these rural areas.
Because of these factors, Carter and the other members of the team were pushing to allow local control of pandemic restrictions.
The revised metrics included in the “Small County Framework” guidelines for rural counties pertains to those with a population of less than 106,000.
“I am pleased that Dr. Ghaly listened and advocated for this change,” said Carter. “Our work is not done, as we will continue to press for the needs of rural counties.”
As of Tuesday, 543 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Colusa County, an increase of two from last week. Health officials report that there are currently just 3 active cases in isolation and seven individuals are in quarantine due to possible exposure.
A total 534 people had recovered from the virus, according to health officials, and there are no hospitalizations at this time.
To date, six individuals have died due to COVID-19 within Colusa County. Five of the six deaths reported within the county were residents of Valley West Care Center and died after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility was reported July 20. The fifth death, a 78-year-old male, was not associated with the care facility.
Kropf said if the county is able to maintain their current case levels and a positivity rate under 4.9 percent for the next three weeks, Colusa County will be eligible to move into an orange tier.