Placer County Receives Local Variance to Move Further into Stage 2

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. 

Placer approves urgency ordinances in response to COVID-19

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.

While Shelter-In-Place Remains, Placer Looks To Phased Reopening

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.