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Health orders to be enforced at non-complying SLT businesses

Dylan Svoboda / Mountain Democrat

El Dorado County will begin enforcement of COVID-19 safety guidelines at businesses blatantly operating in defiance.

To date the county hasn’t cited any businesses for violating state or county coronavirus health codes, instead, relying on education for those breaking orders.

Now after an emergency meeting Thursday the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors is allowing code officers to punish businesses that overtly ignore county and state health orders. Enforcement will focus on establishments that “flat out refuse to comply,” according to county Chief Administrative Officer Don Ashton.

El Dorado County Environmental Management Director Greg Stanton said a majority of county businesses comply with the safety guidelines, but “about a dozen” aren’t doing “nearly enough or nothing at all to comply.”

“We’re talking about the relatively small number of businesses that really aren’t implementing the guidelines at all,” Stanton said. “We’re not talking about a complaint about a patron not wearing a mask in a facility (someone) went in.”

Most of the concerns, according to Ashton, surround restaurants and bars. Stanton said about 75 complaints related to COVID-19 have been filed against permitted restaurants and bars in the county. Stanton added the county will continue its emphasis on education and the enforcement process will be complaint-driven.

District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl said public grievances will be key to enforcement measures the county conducts.

“I don’t think we can go driving around, doing audits and those kinds of things,” Hidahl said. “I don’t think we have the resources to do that. But where we get a complaint about a violation of the executive orders, I think there needs to be some follow-up.”

The emergency meeting was prompted by a letter from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office that threatened to withhold state COVID-19 relief funding if counties don’t enforce state health orders.

The governor’s letter states, “A local government that refuses to abide by, ensure compliance with, or take enforcement action against noncompliance with these statewide public health directives, or that takes action that is otherwise incongruent with these directives, could jeopardize their eligibility for state funding.”

The county could lose up to $22.5 million if enforcement actions aren’t taken, according to the item brought forth Thursday. The money, which the state will begin dispersing in August, could go toward education, the county’s business protection group, fire departments and hospitals, among other sectors, according to Ashton.

The meeting came on another day of double-digit increases in coronavirus cases in the county with 12 positive tests returned Thursday and 15 more Friday.

With the latest jump in cases there have now been 307 confirmed coronavirus patients in the county since the first case was discovered March 20.

The countywide total case count has more than doubled since June 22 when county officials reported 145 COVID-19 cases in El Dorado County residents.

Since July 1 the number of active cases jumped from 73 to 143, the highest number of known, active cases to date.

About 4.1% of tests reported since Wednesday came back positive for COVID-19. The county reported 287 additional tests since Wednesday afternoon. In total, about 13,756 tests have been conducted on county residents to date, according to data provided by the county.

The county reported one additional coronavirus hospitalization Thursday. Three coronavirus patients are currently hospitalized in the county. All three of those patients are in the ICU.

Five more positive tests returned in the Lake Tahoe area Thursday and seven on Friday. The area has had nearly half of the cases countywide with 149.

Two cases were found in each of the Cameron Park/Shingle Springs/Rescue, El Dorado Hills and Placerville areas.

One case was found in the Pollock Pines/Camino/Kyburz area.

No residents are known to have died from the coronavirus in El Dorado County.


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