El Dorado County to ask governor to reopen local economy | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado County to ask governor to reopen local economy

El Dorado County officials are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to ease local COVID-19 restrictions.

With county Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams’ blessing, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send a letter to the governor urging him to loosen constraints on businesses and residents. 

County officials cited a low coronavirus case count compared to suburban and urban areas like Placer, Yolo and Sacramento counties as justification to begin taking steps toward normalcy. 

“While implementing the stay-at-home requirements in our county were necessary, we also recognize the significant financial impact this is now placing on our entire community, especially our small business owners,” the letter read. 

“Due to the efforts taken by our county, we have clearly demonstrated the ability to protect our residents from COVID-19 and we are requesting your approval to allow for the limited, phased reopening of our economy that allows for the eventual safe return of El Dorado County to normal operations and activities in a safe manner.”

There have been 44 total confirmed coronavirus cases in El Dorado County since the first case emerged March 20. Five cases remain active as of Wednesday morning. The county currently holds a per capita infection rate of 23 cases per 100,000 people. No deaths caused by coronavirus have been reported.

El Dorado’s case rate is one of the lowest for a California county of its size or larger, according to Dr. Williams’ presentation Tuesday. 

“El Dorado County appears to be different from other locations in the state,” Williams said. “Clearly, the aggressive actions taken across the state and locally have been successful at keeping our county’s rates of infection very low.”

The county’s proposed, phased approach would still encourage sick and high-risk individuals to remain home and bar nonessential travel. Businesses allowed to reopen would be required to maintain 6-foot social-distancing requirements and asked to limit staff and customers inside establishments. 

While the county proposed its own plan, any reopening approach will be guided by state guidelines, unless the county’s situation merits stricter mandates, Williams said. 

El Dorado County joins a growing number of municipalities asking for relief from statewide stay-at-home orders as businesses clamor to open their doors. 

Hours after the county decided to send a letter, the city of Placerville moved to pen its own letter to the governor. On Monday the counties of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Tehema and Yuba and 14 small cities also wrote a letter urging Gov. Newsom to reopen their economies. 

El Dorado County is requesting a response from the governor by May 8. 

El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini joined Tuesday’s meeting to urge supervisors to send the letter and begin stepping toward normalcy. 

“We need to start moving forward,” D’Agostini said. “The numbers that were predicted early on are not coming to fruition … Prior to all this we had healthy and happy communities. We had great social gatherings, barbecues (with) neighbors. We had economic freedom with a vibrant economy here in El Dorado County.”

But reopening El Dorado County — while many Sacramento Valley and Bay Area communities likely remain closed — could result in people traveling from areas with higher infection rates. 

“It’s a balancing act to get our economy going but yet protect everyone,” District 4 Supervisor Lori Parlin said. “In a perfect world we would just open up our county, for our county, and not let anyone in. But we can’t do that.”

After initial worries the county’s two hospitals — Marshall Medical Center and Barton Memorial Health — are prepared for a potential surge in coronavirus patients. 

“The ability of (area) hospitals and health systems is adequate to handle surges,” Williams said. However, should an overwhelming outbreak emerge, the county will be quick to reimplement stay-at-home restrictions to ease the burden on local health systems, Williams added. 

The county’s two hospitals have a total of 29 intensive care units and 168 total hospital beds. 

The stay-at-home orders have ravaged local government and private sector revenues. The county has spent approximately $4.3 million on COVID-19 related expenses, according to data from Dr. Williams. County entities have reported a loss of $7.2 million in local revenues, she added. 

The efforts come just a day after the county vowed to let its stay-at-home order expire Thursday.

The statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect. Approval to reopen parts of El Dorado County must come from the governor, according to County Counsel David Livingston. 

“Orders issued by the local health officer can be more restrictive than the governor’s order, but not less restrictive,” Livingston said during a meeting Tuesday. 

El Dorado County and the state each issued directives March 19. County orders restricting nonessential travel to the unincorporated area of the Lake Tahoe Basin and allowing administrative fines for visitors to short-term rentals will remain in effect, according to a press release issued Monday.  

Gov. Newsom has stressed the importance of expanding COVID-19 testing and a continued decrease in coronavirus cases statewide before considering easing of the orders. He said Tuesday that the state is “weeks, not months” from moving onto “phase 2” of the coronavirus response. Phase 2 includes the reopening of lower-risk spaces like offices, retail and restaurants with social distancing practices. 

In early May the county’s testing capacity is expected to grow to approximately 300 tests per day, the letter read. Gov. Newsom has said his goal is to reach 60,000 to 80,000 tests statewide per day. 

To see the full letter and guidelines visit here.

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