Officials make plea for ’personal responsibility’ during virus explosion


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Residents on the California-side of Lake Tahoe will wake up Friday morning with a new set of restrictions in place under the state’s regional stay at home order.

This week, 13 counties in Northern California have been placed under the state’s most restrictive COVID-19 order due to the staffed capacity of intensive care units falling below 15%.

The greater Sacramento region, which encompasses El Dorado County in this specific order, has an ICU capacity of 14.3% and are under a regional stay-at-home order that starting at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Nonessential travel to Lake Tahoe, in the California region, is now banned for the second time this year due to COVID-19 spread going off the rails.

When any California region is under the regional stay home order, no hotel or lodging entity in California can accept or honor out of state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.

Hotels and lodging entities in a county under the stay home order cannot accept or honor in-state reservations for nonessential travel.

Hotels or other commercial and residential buildings may offer lodging for essential functions and travel including COVID-19 mitigation and containment measures, treatment measures, accommodation for essential workers, or housing solutions, including measures to protect homeless populations.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the business restrictions and the regional stay at home order on Dec. 3, when regions drop below 15%, they have 24 hours to implement the stay at home order. Once a region has dipped under the threshold, they have to remain there for a minimum of three weeks.

Counties are eligible to come off the regional stay at home order after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15% or above. Officials will then access the counties numbers and revert to the tiered system.

El Dorado County, which has counted 502 positive COVID-19 cases over the last 15 days, was placed into the Sacramento region with Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Due to the stay home order being “regional,” this order applied to this region of neighboring counties based on public health officials regional maps across the state based on data and proximity from a health perspective.

The state has taken this already existing construct and applied it to this regional stay home order hence the first word “Regional.”

County spokesperson Carla Hass says as for now, this is the only order that will be determined by region and not solely the county.

El Dorado County can not move independently out of the order, regardless of what local County numbers are.

Another key factor Hass wanted to point out is that while a region might have a specific amount of ICU beds available, the order is focused on how many staffed ICU beds are available. For example, a region might have 20 licensed ICU beds available but can only staff say five of those beds.

“The more important driving force is how many they can take care of,” she said.

According to Department of Public Health data, there are four staffed ICU beds available in El Dorado County based on information collected Dec. 9.

President and CEO of Barton Heath Dr. Clint Purvance says that while they are prepared through their pandemic response plan to increase bed capacity, staffing shortages are where the challenges lay.

“Bed capacity fluctuates based on staff availability and patient acuity, which aligns levels of care with patients’ health conditions,” said Purvance. “Barton Memorial Hospital continues to have physical bed capacity; however, with national staffing shortages and other regional hospitals reaching inpatient capacity, we are experiencing challenges.”

While El Dorado County will be in the stay home order for a minimum of three weeks regardless of hospital numbers, Hass says this is the time to absolutely practice personal responsibility.

“Right now it is more important than ever that people take personal responsibility regardless of your opinion if the state has the authority to put restrictions on industries and people,” said Hass. “Do whatever you decide to do in the safest way possibly for the overall health of our county.”

The steps she suggests are nothing new and the same precautions officials have been asking the public to do since day one: wear a mask when you are within 6 feet of someone from outside our household, stay outside as much as possible, wash your hands, physically distance, don’t mix with people from outside your household.

“Because this virus has transmitted so widely, what used to be considered safe a few weeks ago from a transmission standpoint, isn’t safe anymore due to the extent to which this virus has spread in our county,” said Hass. “It’s virtually everywhere.”

Hass says that while there isn’t a need to be afraid, there needs to be a healthy concern about virus transmission.

“It’s serious, and even more serious for certain parts of the population,” she said.

Hass stresses that there are many who are asymptomatic, which is why it is imperative to not mix with other households in case of unknowingly exposing someone especially during the holidays which she said is “traditionally built around family and friends getting together.”

“The more people inside with people from outside the household, the greater the risks,” she said.

Purvance recommends that community members should stay committed to mitigation measures and guidelines in place from public health agencies that are designed to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

“We encourage our community to continue to follow guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19, including minimizing indoor gatherings with anyone outside of your household, wearing masks, keeping six feet physical distance, and staying home if you are not feeling well,” he said in an email.

South Lake Tahoe City Manager, Joe Irvin agrees that the order will help to minimize the impacts the ICU is feeling. Irvin encourages people to not mix with other households to help aid in that effort.

“It is going to take some time to get ICU capacity trending in the right direction,” he said. “COVID numbers are spiking and it is a concern.”

He also wanted to encourage people to safely support local businesses by ordering takeout from local restaurants or shopping from local retail stores.

“It is a critical time for those who live here to support local businesses more than ever, in the safest way possible,” he said. “Stay healthy, respect others’ spaces and it’s always smart to wear a mask.”

Irvin says the outdoors aren’t closed, that locals should get out and enjoy the outdoors safely.

“We are all in this together, these are trying times — but we will get through this,” he said.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department is asking people who are confused or have questions about the stay home order to visit

SLTPD’s dispatch center is being overwhelmed with calls, and they do not have any more information than what is publicly available.

Area ski resorts will remain open during the order.

The resorts already require face coverings to access the mountain and in all parts of their operations and are also managing access to resorts through a reservation system to allow for physical distancing.

Due to the order and it prohibiting hotels and lodging entities from accepting or honoring any reservations except those related to critical infrastructure support, guests will be contacted if their lodging stay falls within the period of the current order, and no reservations can be made during this time.

In any region that triggers a stay home order, all operations in the following sectors must be closed:

Indoor Recreational Facilities, Hair Salons and Barbershops, Personal Care Services, Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums, Movie Theaters, Wineries, Bars, Breweries and Distilleries, Family Entertainment Centers, Cardrooms and Satellite Wagering, Limited Services, Live Audience Sports, Amusement Parks

The following sectors will have additional modifications in addition to 100% masking and physical distancing:

Outdoor Recreational Facilities including playgrounds and ski resorts: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.

Retail: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.

Shopping Centers: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.

Hotels and Lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.

Restaurants: Allow only for take-out or pick-up.

Offices: Allow remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible.

Places of Worship: Allow outdoor services only.

Entertainment Production including Professional Sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.

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