Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of stories on the status of things related to the COVID-19 pandemic -- on the local front. We’d like to hear from readers about what questions or specific issues they’d like to have addressed. Send your ideas to ADnewsroom@appealdemocrat.com.
There seems to be a great divide between people with different ideas about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – masks, social distancing, colored tiers, business closures and now the statewide curfew order.
That divide is certainly evidenced amongst elected representatives.
“It concerns me that the governor has an ever-changing policy that attempts to dictate our way of life and commerce,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen, the Tehama Republican who represents this area.
“It changes weekly. Over the months, this inconsistency has led to much confusion and contributed to the disruption of lives, the loss of jobs and closures of schools and small businesses … This is just insane. It is confusing. There is no clear plan. This is no way to address a pandemic.”
Like Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher, Yuba City Republican, agrees that shutting down local businesses, schools and other places where people gather is not the best option.
“I don’t think you should close your business, church or school,” said Gallagher. “I would encourage you to keep them open. I don’t think you need to cancel Thanksgiving. You are all responsible adults and you can decide what risks are acceptable for you and your family.”
While, Gallagher said, the community should recognize another increase in COVID-19 cases at this time, it is not because some restaurants have been open.
“It’s because that is what viruses do,” said Gallagher. “In order to limit the spread, do your best to keep up on washing your hands, keeping distanced and wearing a facial covering when you can’t. We can and will overcome this as a free society.”
Others, like Congressman John Garamendi (D – Walnut Grove), agree people need to continue wearing facial coverings, social distance ourselves and practice good hygiene to help mitigate the spread of the virus, but say that is not enough.
“This is a dangerous pandemic that has already taken the lives of more than 250,000 people and in the next two to three weeks could kill another 50,000 people,” said Garamendi.
He said there are two crucial things that need to be happening right now: testing and tracing. By those means, Garamendi said the state would be able to identify areas where an outbreak is occurring and implement restrictions as needed, thus lessening restrictions in areas not experiencing a surge.
“In the absence of knowing where the outbreaks are occurring we are left with a very broad prohibition,” said Garamendi. “I believe we need to have geographical restrictions in locations with a surge and that can be identified through rapid testing and tracing.”
Garamendi said rapid testing and tracing has only recently become available in California and attempts at legislation at the federal level to implement support for the efforts have failed.
“The state is doing the best they can with limited resources,” said Garamendi. “There has been a failure at the national level, creating a very limited supply of rapid testing.”
Moving forward, Garamendi said the virus is anticipated to surge more in the coming weeks so continuing to wear a mask, social distance and stay home when possible is important.
“We have two options,” said Garamendi. “We can either let people get sick and die or we can take the necessary steps to reduce infection rates.”
While the widespread surge in cases is occurring in areas with both high and low population densities at this time, many in rural areas believe that local control of COVID-19 guidelines is needed moving forward.
Earlier this month Nielsen and Gallagher were part of a group of elected officials from across northern California that met to discuss their general consensus for this idea. As part of the effort, they penned a “Healthy Communities Resolution” to address local control, geographic diversity, the opening of schools and the distribution deadline for CARES Act relief funds, which many local county supervisor boards will consider adopting in the coming weeks.
By signing on to the effort, supervisors from participating counties essentially agree that their county is best served by an ability to respond locally to the virus; that their county is geographically diverse and ill-suited for the state’s “one-size-fits-all” Blueprint for a Safer Economy system; that school districts be urged to safely open as soon as possible; and that they request an extension of time beyond Dec. 31, 2020, to encumber and spend federal CARES Act funds.