Friday’s California Governor news conference has generated some questions about counties’ current ability to move forward on reopening at their own pace. We’ve just received written confirmation from California Department of Public Health‘s health officer that, under the statewide order, a business sector is allowed to reopen only after the State has posted its guidance online at www.covid19.ca.gov AND the local health officer approves the sector to resume. The following guidance from their letter applies to counties like Placer with a variance to move more quickly through Stage 2 of the State’s reopening roadmap: “A variance county can elect to open a given sector so long as (1) the State has issued guidance for how a given sector can reopen and (2) the local health officer has provided approval for that sector to open in that locality. If the state has not yet released guidance for a sector, then that sector cannot yet be opened.”
As one of the first counties to have its attestation approved, Placer County has moved both quickly and carefully to safely reopen. We’ve reopened as many business sectors as allowed by the State order, and our Board of Supervisors has formally requested permission to move further into Stage 3 of the State’s roadmap. We’ve created our own materials for future-stage businesses to prepare for reopening based on the state guidance issued to date: https://www.placer.ca.gov/reopen/planahead
Guidance for sectors that may currently reopen in Placer County can be found at: https://www.placer.ca.gov/reopen/guidance
And visit the ‘Can I Reopen?’ page for more information: https://www.placer.ca.gov/reopen/canireopen
Pointing to Placer County’s success at flattening the COVID-19 curve and the proactive efforts of the local business community to prepare for safely reopening, the county Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a resolution to request permission from the state to move into Stage 3 of California’s reopening roadmap.
On May 12, Placer County became one of the first counties in the state to receive a variance to move more quickly than the state through Stage 2. Today’s resolution follows a similar proposal approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on May 19.
“We hear both sides of this issue and people are very passionate about it,” said Board Chair and District 1 Supervisor Bonnie Gore. “We are concerned about protecting the most vulnerable. That’s what we’ve been doing now for the past two and a half months. However, there is also a balance between protecting human life and protecting the other parts of life that are important – the economic and mental health of our residents. As we open up, we anticipate a spike will happen. The good news is that we’re well prepared to address those surges. As we move forward, we all have to continue being kind to one another and taking precautions to keep one another safe.”
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the county has worked closely with Placer’s cities, chambers of commerce and other business groups to advise and educate businesses on the need for strict adherence to state reopening guidelines, including producing its own materials for future-stage businesses to prepare for reopening based on the state guidance issued to date.
The resolution asks for the state to allow reopening of Stage 3 businesses in Placer County such as nail salons, gyms, lodging for tourism and entertainment venues – with adaptations and limits on size of gatherings. It also requests that youth sports and programs be allowed to resume.
Acknowledging the significance of the summer season for Placer’s tourism-based economy in eastern Placer County, the resolution asks for specific flexibility to reopen for tourism no later than June 1 and for the state to provide reopening guidance for the industry.
“Businesses have taken dramatic cuts. They’re just trying to keep employees to help pay their bills and put food on the table for their families,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “I’m not supporting this because of economic gains or county revenues. This is about community members who are dramatically suffering. Some of our small business people are losing everything they’ve worked their whole lives for.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced May 25 that the state would allow in-person church services limited to 100 people or 25% of capacity, whichever is smaller, upon approval by the local health department, which Placer’s health officer has provided. The resolution requests even more flexibility for church services, The resolution requests even more flexibility for church services, seeking to eliminate the 100-person attendance limit.
The resolution further requests the state to release the estimated $40 million the county expects to receive in funding provided through the federal CARES Act to reimburse local agencies for certain costs of their COVID-19 responses.
In a related item, the board approved a study of Placer’s local COVID-19 infection rate to move forward. The seroprevalence study would investigate how many residents have been infected with COVID-19 by testing for antibodies in a representative pool of volunteer residents, which could provide better insight into the county’s overall COVID-19 infection and mortality rates.
Though the board approved a cost of up to $250,000, the study is not expected to come at any net expense to the county; with $150,000 anticipated to come from CARES Act funding, health insurance providers paying for individual tests and additional funding expected from other potential community partners.
“We started with no infections, and we’re headed for herd immunity, or some semblance of it,” said District 2 Supervisor Robert Weygandt. “Understanding where we are now in the process is essential information to inform the many more policy decisions we’ll have to make as we continue to deal with the disease in the coming months.”
Under new state guidance released today by the California Department of Public Health, places of worship in Placer County can now hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity – or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower, with approval by the local health department. The county health officer has approved this resumption. Find the guidance here: https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf.
City of Rocklin offices will reopen to the public on Tuesday, May 26, in compliance with the State of California’s Resilience Roadmap allowing office functions to resume where telework is not possible.
The City has implemented key prevention practices recommended by public health authorities to reopen safely and responsibly, including, but not limited to:
- Physical distancing to the maximum extent possible, including installation of protective barriers at front counters and between employee workstations
- Encouraging customers to use face coverings at all times when inside City buildings
- Encouraging employees to use face coverings when interacting with customers and when physical distancing is not possible between employees
- Frequent handwashing and regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces
- Employee training and information on the elements of the COVID-19 prevention plan
- Posting of recommend behaviors for employees and guests in prominent areas
Customers are asked to conduct as much business as possible with the City online or by phone, but front counters and lobbies will be open during regular business hours. Staffing will be limited as teleworking continues, where possible.
“The health and safety of Rocklin citizens, our employees and the entire community continues to be our highest priority,” City Manager Steve Rudolph said. “City staff have served residents throughout the pandemic and we all look forward to safely increasing our availability to facilitate the important business of our residents, businesses and stakeholders.”
Placer County has been given the green light by the California Department of Public Health to begin moving further into Stage 2 of California’s Roadmap to Modify the Stay-at-Home Order. Today, the Placer County COVID-19 Variance Attestation submission was officially posted on the CDPH website, allowing the county to begin reopening additional businesses in Stage 2 that had been closed under the state’s current order.
“I cannot express how thankful I am to represent a county that is so dedicated to doing what is right for its residents,” said Placer County Supervisor and Board Chair Bonnie Gore. “County staff has been working non-stop to prepare for an accelerated reopening ever since the governor shared last week that it was possible to seek a local variance to move faster than the state’s pace. We have a business community that is committed to reopening responsibly to ensure our residents remain healthy and safe.”
Business sectors in Placer County that will be allowed to resume operations once they have implemented state reopening guidance include shopping centers and all in-store retail, in addition to dine-in restaurants — although bars, breweries and wineries will not be permitted to reopen beyond takeout and delivery at this time unless they provide in-house dining. Office-based businesses will also be allowed to reopen but telework is strongly encouraged.
On Tuesday, the governor announced the statewide reopening of two more business sectors in Stage 2 that had not been allowed to open with the first wave. These include personal services that are limited to: car washes, pet grooming, dog walking, tanning facilities, and landscape gardening as well as outdoor museums and open gallery spaces.
Businesses in these two sectors are urged to review guidance and post readiness checklists at their establishments to self-certify their commitment to reopen safely. These materials are now available for review and preparation on the new Reopen Placer website.
The Board of Supervisors convened a special meeting on Monday, May 11, to review the attestation and voted unanimously to provide a letter of support in moving forward.
“I want to caution all of our business owners to closely follow the state’s reopening guidance to help protect the public’s health,” said District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. “Our attestation includes metrics that will require us to slow down or roll back reopening efforts if we see a surge in COVID-19 cases. I have faith that every resident in this county will do their part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, because that is what it is going to take for all of us to succeed.”
In the submission, the health officer attested to various criteria laid out by the state, including: epidemiologic stability of COVID-19 in the county; protection of Stage 1 essential workers; adequate testing and containment capacity; hospital capacity; support for vulnerable populations; and requirements for Stage 2 timelines and triggers for adjustments.
Placer County has enlisted the support of regional economic development stakeholders – such as cities, economic development directors and chambers of commerce – to assist with educating Placer businesses on how to adhere to state guidance as part of its Reopen Placer effort.
Last week, California Governor Gavin Newson announced the state would ease into Stage 2 of his four-stage roadmap, which allowed retail with curbside pickup along with associated manufacturing and logistics to begin operating on May 8. While counties such as Placer may achieve a local variance to accelerate through Stage 2, there is not yet the local ability to move to Stage 3.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a series of urgency ordinances in response to the COVID-19 emergency.
In the first of two urgency ordinances, the board voted to delay the annual adjustment of impact fees until October instead of July.
The county collects development impact fees to fund infrastructure necessitated by growth.
Every year staff brings impact fees to the Board of Supervisors to make adjustments pursuant to changes in a specified consumer price index or a consumer cost index to make sure that the fees keep up with inflation.
County staff determined that the timing of the fee adjustments was problematic given the COVID-19 emergency and its financial impacts on the community.
The Building Industry Association and other industry experts recently cited concerns over an increase in fees due to an expected decrease in construction activity because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The board may choose to further delay fee adjustments at the July board meeting.
For the second urgency ordinance, the board voted to suspend penalties and interest on an interim basis until July 31 for unpaid transient occupancy taxes that were due for the first quarter of this calendar year.
Reporting is still required but the suspension of penalties and interest will allow additional time to process and send payments to Placer County. The urgency ordinance will also help alleviate additional administrative burdens so that operators can focus their efforts elsewhere.
Many lodging operators and organizations were required by the governor’s executive order to stop operating their businesses to help flatten the COVID-19 curve and this took a heavy toll on revenue, which has caused many operators and organizations to miss the TOT remittance deadlines.
“The lodging community and TOT certificate holders in Placer County have done a remarkable job in cooperating with the governor’s executive order, which has contributed to public safety and supports the area’s finite health care system,” said Placer County Revenue Services Manager Doug Jastrow. “Of particular note are the efforts of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association to inform would-be visitors to eastern Placer County of the executive order’s limits to commercial lodging and non-essential travel.” Taxes paid by visitors help fund services benefitting the entire county including public infrastructure projects and tourism marketing and promotion, but are also used for public safety, transportation, libraries, parks and historical and environmental preservation projects. TOT must be collected not just by traditional lodging providers like hotels but also by those who provide lodging through internet-based services like Airbnb, HomeAway and Vacation Rentals By Owner.
As of Saturday, May 2, Placer County’s local health order will expire and residents will be guided by the governor’s Executive Order to shelter in place — removing any confusion over areas of difference between the two orders. This transition will allow a focus on planning for a phased reopening in partnership with local governments, health care, business and other stakeholders, as well as regional and state partners.
In response to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Placer County and the greater Sacramento area, last month the Placer County health officer issued a directive – and later, an order – intended to slow the spread of the disease by asking residents to stay at home except for essential needs. The local order was intended to complement the indefinite statewide shelter-in-place order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19.
The goal of sheltering in place is to flatten the curve—to avoid a large number of cases all at once that would overwhelm the health care system and result in deaths that could have been prevented if cases were spread out over time. The current numbers demonstrate that sheltering in place has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in Placer County.
“It is of critical importance that our residents understand the necessity to shelter in place and our local order was a tool to underscore this. I am grateful that our community has shown this understanding, and I recognize the deep sacrifices made to adhere to orders,” Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said. “With this awareness built, we will move forward under the statewide order and turn our local attention to planning for a phased reopening.”
While the local order is ending, area residents still need to shelter in place. Governor Newsom’s statewide shelter-in-place order remains in effect until further notice. The governor’s Executive Order permits critical workers in 13 sectors to work, and allows people to leave their homes for necessities such as food, medications and health care.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the state order can be found at covid19.ca.gov. Placer County will continue to receive questions about the state order from local businesses and residents, and will work to synthesize and address these with the state. Businesses that remain open as permitted under the governor’s order are still asked to adhere to physical distancing protocols provided on the county’s guidance page at www.placer.ca.gov/coronavirus/guidance. The health officer’s recommendation to wear face coverings when maintaining 6 feet of physical distance in public is not possible also remains in effect.
Placer County Public Health is focused on working with partners to build local capabilities necessary for an eventual and safe reopening. The state’s six indicators have been identified by Governor Newsom as:
- The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
- The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
- The ability of the hospital and health system to handle surges;
- The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
- The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
- The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.
“While aspects of these indicators are beyond our control at the local level, we are excited to see testing capacity increasing day by day, and we appreciate the engagement of our business community,” Sisson said. “There is still work to be done and we are not out of the woods. It is not yet safe to reopen, but progress is being made.”
Placer County has created sector-specific task forces to ensure the reopening of our county is managed effectively within public health guidance protocols. The task forces will coordinate with the state, county departments, local cities and chambers of commerce as well as our non-profit partners to share information and develop health and safety guidelines to assist all sectors of our community.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to reopening every sector of county government. Court officials will face different challenges than our Parks Department and the same holds true for our business community and school districts,” said Placer County CEO Todd Leopold. “We intend to work through operational issues that are relevant to each sector so that we are can effectively maintain public health standards for when the governor lifts the stay-at-home order.”
The governor has announced four stages around how California may modify the statewide stay-at-home order in the future, as part of a “Resilience Roadmap.” State leaders made clear that California is still in stage 1, and movement to the second stage will be a statewide shift and not a local decision.