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The Plumas County Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday, May 12, to discuss sending a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for a variance so that some local businesses can open sooner.

Plumas County asks state for variance to reopen sooner

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Plumas County residents may soon dine in a restaurant again, but that decision now rests with the state.

Plumas is one of 27 counties that have applied for a variance to increase the pace at which they are able to move through Stage 2 of the governor’s roadmap to reopen California.

Butte and El Dorado counties are the first two to be approved, and Plumas hopes to follow this week. All counties must file an attestation that they meet certain readiness criteria, with letters of support from local hospitals, city councils and boards of supervisors. Update: By Wednesday morning, May 13, the list had grown to include Lassen, Shasta, Amador, Placer and Nevada counties.

Andrew Woodruff, the county’s public health director, said the documents would be filed with the state today, May 12, and then he would await state notification. Based on feedback he has received from other counties, it could take a few days or more to be notified.

As the state approves counties’ attestations, they are posted on its COVID website and available for all to view. During his news briefing today, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “Each of these self certifications and attestations will provide data,” that can be used to track how each county is doing and if goals are being met.

Woodruff and staff talked with state health officials over the weekend and are confident that the county has met the criteria.

Letter of support

County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick presented the board of supervisors with two letters of support to choose from during today’s board meeting. He described version one as “vanilla,” and version two as “encouraging the governor” to allow Plumas County to move not only through Stage 2, but to allow some portions of Stage 3 — specifically lodging and camping.

In the past couple of weeks county officials have received increasing pressure from the lodging providers to be allowed to open fully. As of now, lodging is limited to essential workers, and the ability to offer lodging for tourism and recreation isn’t permitted until Stage 3.

A host of lodging providers — from one end of the county to the other — submitted public comments prior to the meeting. Board Chairman Kevin Goss read the names of those who submitted, but did not read their comments. Those will be posted on the board of supervisors’ website as part of the public record.

Hydrick said the county’s approach couldn’t be limited to just one perspective (health) — but rather what he calls a “three-legged stool” approach that incorporates health, as well as economic and social needs.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall thanked Hydrick for the option and said that she agreed 100 percent with this three-legged stool approach. “The economic piece has been left hanging out there,” she said. “Most of the lodging providers make their money from May through September. We only have this short window.”

Supervisor Jeff Engel agreed and made the motion to send version two of the letter asking the governor to allow Plumas County to move even more quickly than he has indicated he would allow. The other supervisors agreed and it will be included in the package that public health sends to the state today.

Hydrick emphasized that not only was lodging important to Plumas County economically, but the camping component was critical as the state enters fire season. “It’s better to bring them into campsites than out in the woods,” he said of campers.

Public health input

Before the board took its vote, Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff addressed some of the criteria that the county met to allow the request for a variance to be submitted to the state.

“Plumas County is confident that we met each measure in the attestation,” Woodruff said.

The county meets the criteria laid out in the governor’s road map to recovery, which includes specifics on number of cases, number of deaths, surge capacity, protective gear, testing and tracing capabilities, temporary housing to shelter positive cases, and operation plans for businesses.

If the variance is approved, the following businesses with an operation plan, would be allowed to open:

  • All retail business to open for on site sales (in store) including swap meets and malls
  • Personal services, limited to: car washes, pet grooming, tanning facilities and landscape gardening
  • Office based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged)
  • Dine-in restaurants (bars and gaming areas, not permitted)
  • Outdoor museums and open gallery spaces
  • Childcare

“We cannot legally go beyond Stage 2 at this time,” Woodruff told the supervisors.

Stage 3 businesses as determined by the state are:

  • Movie theaters
  • Religious services (depending on size)
  • Hospitality and tourism services
  • Wedding venues (depending on size)
  • Nail and hair salons
  • Barbers

Additionally, Woodruff warned the board that there are triggers that could cause the county to go backward in its reopening efforts: two or more confirmed cases in two successive weeks; a case in a congregate setting such as a jail or a hospital; any outbreak that exceeds the ability to trace; a surge that threatens to overload the healthcare system or evidence of community spread.

“The overriding issue is public health and safety,” he told the board.

Business liaison

Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe also addressed the board and said he had talked with many business owners and understood that what the county was seeking “won’t satisfy the needs of everyone, but will help some.”

He knows that lodging providers want to be included, but said the county can’t go beyond Stage 2 at this time. “People are very upset,” he said and related the story of an individual who feared losing the family business.

County Counsel Craig Settlemire said that the state’s website was very clear about what would and wouldn’t be permitted during this variance process. “We can’t adopt rules that are contradictory,” he said.

“I understand the frustration,” Supervisor Lori Simpson said, and shared some of the interesting names that she had been called, “but we’re better to work not in an adversarial relationship with the governor.”



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