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Nonessential vs. essential: Who is staying in Plumas?

California’s shelter in place order is easier said than enforced, and enforcement is only getting more difficult. After six weeks of sheltering in place, Californians are ready to be on the move.

This has concerned some Plumas County residents as they see an increasing number of unfamiliar vehicles on their streets and previously empty homes with inhabitants. And what about the anecdotal reports of visitors staying at resorts and in local motels?

County officials know there’s an issue, but say there’s no easy answer. “The Governor’s order is still in effect, so that means all non-essential travel is restricted. The enforcement team understands that we’re seeing a huge increase in recreational/non-essential travel, but we have not figured out how to investigate or enforce this,” said Jerry Sipe, the county’s environmental health director and part of the county’s COVID response team. “The wording of the Governor’s order, the legal definition of residence, and the encouragement for people to recreate to help with personal health and well-being really complicate our efforts. This is a challenge that we’re continuing to work on.”

District Attorney David Hollister agreed. “With the language in the Governor’s March 19th order and our lack of a local order by our Public Health Officer, there are significant issues as to which (if any) laws are being broken and how enforcement can take place,” said Hollister. “I continue to hope for clarity in the coming days on these fronts. Until then, it is important we have a clear, consistent and singular message driven by science.”

The motels that we consulted are adhering to the governor’s order. For example, the Gold Pan Motel in Quincy is only renting rooms to those working on the railroad, which is considered essential work, and homeless individuals as prescribed by the government.

At the Ranchito Motel across town in East Quincy, owner Tracy Wixted said rooms are occupied by essential workers including employees for the Rite Aid pharmacy, Sierra Pacific and PG&E. She does have reservations for nonessential guests this summer. She said that even though some events, such as the High Sierra Music Festival, have been canceled, people still want to visit the area.

The Lodge at Nakoma is only open to those who are considered essential workers.

But there are a host of lodging providers throughout this county, including private vacation home rentals, and it would be impossible to police all of them, and even then, there aren’t really any repercussions. Thus far the focus has been education, not prosecution.

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