The Colusa County Board of Supervisors last week approved sending a letter to several state officials expressing their concerns about the “challenges associated in working with the metrics outlined in the recently released ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy’ upon rural counties” such as Colusa.
“We are, once again, respectfully requesting local control over COVID-19 response, recovery and reopening as the Blueprint’s one-size fits all approach is not a workable system for Colusa County,” said Denise Carter, Colusa County Board of Supervisors chairperson.
In the letter addressed to Governor Gavin Newsom, Acting State Public Health Officer Erica Pan and Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly, Carter said the blueprint does not reflect the realities of rural communities and their economies, making it “nearly impossible to move forward within the state’s established structure for COVID-19 response and recovery.”
Carter said the most recent change of the metrics was done without input from rural county Public Health Directors and Officers and does not take into account the unique character and demographics of rural communities in Colusa County as compared to much larger areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“In fact, the Governor’s new tiered approach makes it very difficult for small rural counties to move from what is described as Widespread to Substantial, and creates unrealistic obstacles to reopening County businesses and getting our kids back to school,” said Carter.
The blueprint, announced by Newsom Aug. 28, is a statewide plan to continue mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic into the future that imposes risk-based criteria on COVID-19 guidelines to determine how long they are in effect and places each county into one of four colored tiers based on extent of the spread of the virus within that community. These tiers indicate how sectors are allowed to operate and what guidelines they must follow.
“This Blueprint is statewide, stringent and slow,” said Newsom. “We have made notable progress over recent weeks, but the disease is still too widespread across the state. COVID-19 will be with us for a long time and we all need to adapt. We need to live differently. And we need to minimize exposure for our health, for our families and for our communities.”
Colusa County was assigned to the purple tier – which is the most restrictive of the four levels. Hair salons and barber shops were allowed to reopen indoor operations with modifications on Monday at this level and restaurants are allowed to continue operating outdoors only but many other sectors, including schools, remain closed at this tier.
“We do appreciate the reopening of hair salons and barber shops, but modifying the metrics, once again, delays reopening of other local businesses and high schools,” wrote Carter in the letter. “It also confirms local residents’ distrust of the State’s direction and local governments’ ability to reach established targets before they’re abruptly upended, often without logical documented rationale, or remedies for solutions. The administration continues to ignore rural counties’ request to view us with a different lens, as it relates to what is open, what is not, the overall metrics and duplication of data.”
According to the letter, Colusa County would need to target less than one positive case per day in order to advance within the tiered system.
“Moreover, the data that the state is using to determine a county’s assigned tier often includes duplicate counts, essentially handcuffing us from realizing any real advancement at all,” it was stated in the letter. “Continuing these shutdowns will result in further declines in the economic, emotional and mental health of our community.”
While Newsom has been a huge advocate for implementing COVID-19 guidelines and closures until an effective vaccine is distributed, the letter said that suggestion is “simply not realistic.”
“We must learn to live with the virus among us, while still protecting our most vulnerable,” it was stated in the letter. “Keep in mind that when the COVID-19 shutdown first occurred, it was to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. It appears the State has now transitioned to a position of keeping our communities shut down until the virus is completely eliminated.”
Carter said in the letter that the Board of Supervisors is working to achieve a balance between protecting public health and reopening the local economy safely and they feel confident that the local Public Health officials are the best suited to lead the COVID-19 response and reopening efforts within Colusa County.
“We are proud of the progress that our community has experienced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and credit the hard work and sacrifice of residents in adhering to local public health protocols, such as wearing facial coverings and maintaining social physical distance and proper hygiene,” it was stated in the letter.
Carter said by writing the letter, the Board hopes that the Governor and his CDPH staff take the time to gather feedback and information from local Health Officials in all counties before implementing new requirements and allow all schools and businesses within Colusa County to reopen with realistic safeguards in place, based on real facts and information.
As of Tuesday, 478 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Colusa County. Health officials report that there are currently 21 active cases in isolation and 61 individuals are in quarantine due to possible exposure.
One individual has been hospitalized due to coronavirus related symptoms as of Tuesday and 451 people had recovered from the virus.
On Thursday, health officials reported that positive cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, with a three day lag, were 128.4, up from the 66.4 reported Sept. 1. Overall testing positivity over the past seven days, with a seven day lag, was 6.5 percent, down from the 9.1 percent reported Sept. 1. The average number of positive tests done per day, per 100,000 residents with a seven day lag in data, was reported as 173.9, up from the 132.8 reported last week.