The Colusa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to abstain from enforcing any COVID-19 orders that “infringe upon a citizen’s constitutional rights,” during a special meeting last week.
The decision includes abstaining from enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s active shelter-in-place order and phased reopening plan.
The action, which was proposed by Supervisor Gary J. Evans, allows for the reopening of all businesses and other service sectors within Colusa County.
“Colusa County citizens are free to resume all normal functions as they desire, with the request to exercise kindness and good judgement,” read a release issued by the county on Thursday.
During his address in last Wednesday’s meeting, Evans cited the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment as well as the California State Constitution, county ordinances, Supreme Court rulings and statements from Newsom to support the motion to “endorse the protections, rights or privileges afforded by the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act and (the) desire to ensure that those protections, rights or privileges are afforded to the citizens of Colusa County.”
Evans also called for the support of local officials, saying, “We would ask that the sheriff, district attorney, the cities of Colusa and Williams and their respective police chiefs support this motion.”
During the meeting Colusa County Sheriff Joe Garofalo spoke on behalf of his department, saying he fully supported the motion that had been presented.
“Like I’ve been from day one, I’m here to support the county in any way,” said Garofalo. “I think we have waited long enough. We’ve been more than patient and, simply put, the numbers don’t support the shelter-in-place, stay-at-home or whatever you want to call it. And if down the road there’s some repercussions from the state, I think we’re resilient enough to adapt and can overcome whatever barriers we face.”
Josh Fitch, chief of police for the Colusa Police Department, said while the decision on how to move forward with enforcement by his department will be made by the Colusa City Council, his department has focused on education rather than any punitive action and that practice will not change.
Mike Bradwell, Colusa County assistant sheriff, echoed that, saying the Sheriff’s Department will also continue to educate and communicate with the community regarding COVID-19.
James Saso, chief of police in Williams, said his department has not yet received direction from the Williams City Council as to how to move forward with enforcement and the department does plan to continue to operate how they have been.
“We’re just reminding folks of social distancing requirements but we haven’t yet written anybody any tickets or taken any enforcement action for people gathering.”
Before the board’s vote, Supervisor Merced Corona said the motion was “right on the mark.”
“I think anything short of opening up the county at full measure is just further damaging our economy and damaging all the businesses that we have here in our county that we depend on and that the people will depend on,” said Corona.
Marcos Kropf, county counsel, said the board’s decision was to support the citizens of Colusa County in the exercise of their constitutional rights in a manner as they see fit.
“Because the county does not have any county health orders in effect, it is up to individuals, businesses, and other organizations in the county to decide for themselves on how they choose to follow continuing health orders by the state of California,” said Kropf.
On June 1, two COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Colusa County, bringing the total count up to seven.
According to county health officials, four females and three males have tested positive for the virus. Of those, one is under the age of 18, three are between the ages of 19–49, two are between the ages of 50–59 and one is over the age of 60.