Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series on the status of things related to the COVID-19 pandemic – on the local front. Stories will review prevention goals, fatalities, medical facilities, economics and politics.
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The Yuba-Sutter area returned to the state’s most restrictive tier on Tuesday as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
The move back into the state’s “purple tier” means several industries and organizations – restaurants, bars, personal care services, churches, movie theaters and gyms – will be required to cease indoor operations once again and resort to only outdoor activities as the winter weather starts to pick up.
It doesn’t appear local officials plan to enforce a closure, though those that go against guidelines could face consequences at the state level.
“We can’t speak for the state, but businesses should understand the risks involved, especially if they hold licensing overseen by the state,” said Bi-County Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu. “Locally, we are continuing to focus on education and outreach.”
Several businesses contacted on Tuesday declined to comment about the situation, likely to prevent unwanted attention. Early on in the pandemic, businesses throughout both counties took a stand against the closures, which resulted in state licensing agencies like Alcoholic Beverage Control coming to town and threatening action if they continued to go against the state’s guidelines.
Marni Sanders, CEO of the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses throughout the area have been hit hard due to the COVID-19 restrictions. On top of the financial struggles, small businesses have also reported challenges with finding employees.
“It’s hard to get a business up and running, then you have momentum, only to come to a screeching halt due to the closures,” Sanders said. “It’s wearing folks down, and understandably so. Our hearts go out to our businesses.”
Last weekend, the chamber held an event that encouraged residents to shop, dine and buy local in an effort to support Yuba-Sutter small businesses. Sanders said the local economy had started to show signs of life again in the past several weeks, but the latest COVID restrictions will likely impact those efforts.
Many business owners are having to rethink how their business can remain successful into the future, but it’s difficult when there is so much uncertainty about how the state’s guidelines are laid out, she said. Small business owners are taking the brunt of the impacts, and Sanders has concerns about how much longer this can go on before closures begin en masse, considering many have already blown through their reserves and loans having sustained more than eight months of a global pandemic.
“I’m very sad for what is happening to our local businesses, and it’s frustrating for them. Their hands are tied in many ways, and locally, our hands are tied as well,” Sanders said.
Local Assemblyman James Gallagher sent out a message earlier this week urging local business owners and residents to disregard the state’s orders.
“The government can only take what you let them. I don’t think you should close your business, church or school. 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,” Gallagher said in the statement.
“Be considerate. Recognize that we are seeing another increase in cases. It is not because some restaurants have been open, it’s because that is what viruses do. 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.”
Luu said personal responsibility is important, and that all local residents should take it upon themselves to minimize the spread of the virus by avoiding social gatherings outside of their own household, which has already had an impact on the area’s only hospital.
“As we head into another surge – as we see with skyrocketing cases and rising hospitalizations – we need to do our individual parts at home and in public to prevent an impending crisis for our fragile healthcare system and for the sake of our fellow community members,” Luu said.
Counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks before being reclassified. If local numbers were to improve drastically overnight and both counties qualified for the red tier, the earliest either county could be reclassified would be the week of Dec. 14.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases increased by 82 on Tuesday, bringing the area’s total to 4,099 cases.
Twenty people were hospitalized as of Tuesday evening, while 61 residents recovered from the virus. Twenty-three local residents have died due to COVID-19 to date.
Luu said residents must take action now to help stop the transmission of the virus in the community. With the holidays approaching, she said it’s important for people to realize that the virus knows no boundaries and does not discriminate based on blood relations. She said up to 40 percent of new COVID-19 cases are transmitted due to asymptomatic transmission, from people who didn’t realize that they were infected when they passed it on to others.
“This is a once-in-a century pandemic and we need to (ask), how will our children and grandchildren judge us for our individual actions now,” Luu said. “Will they be proud that we are responsible and made deep sacrifices to avoid an impending crisis in our healthcare system, or will they ask us why we couldn’t hold off having that one Thanksgiving dinner in person for just one time?”