Nevada County at risk for more COVID-19 restrictions
Special to the Sierra Sun
County officials are urging people to step up efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in hopes of avoiding a downgrade on the state’s tiered reopening roadmap.
On Tuesday, for the first time since qualifying for the orange, or “moderate,” risk category seven weeks ago, the county met criteria to move into a more restrictive tier. If the county meets criteria for a more restrictive tier next week — with either a case rate of four or greater, or positivity rate above 4.9% — it will move into the red tier Nov. 17.
The state’s latest assessment — which uses data from two weeks prior — showed Nevada County had a case rate of two and positivity rate of 6.1%. The state’s next assessment will use date from the first week of November, in which the county saw more than 50 new cases.
If the county’s tier assessment is downgraded, businesses like restaurants, gyms and retailers will have to further restrict indoor capacity. Bars, breweries and wineries will have to cease indoor operations completely.
According to interim Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Johnson, the state’s assessment is not surprising given the recent spike in cases, and it could lead to a downgrade into the purple or “widespread” tier.
“At the rate our local cases are increasing, there is a possibility that Nevada County could trend towards the Purple Tier in future weeks due to the seven-day lag in real-time data with the State’s tier system,” Johnson said in a release.
“If we do go backwards into the Red Tier next Tuesday, it’ll directly impact our businesses. We continue to urge everyone to stay diligent about refraining from gatherings with friends and family as well as going into the office if you are feeling sick. It’s the best way to keep our community healthy, keep impacts to our local hospital systems low and support our businesses safely through the holidays.”
With the prospect of increased regulations looming, some businesses are already preparing to challenge state and local restrictions.
According to Ken Paige, owner of Friar Tuck’s, the Nevada County Restaurant Coalition intends to file a lawsuit against the state and local government alleging damages to their businesses.
Paige and other businesses fined for not complying with indoor dining restrictions settled with the county for the cost of their annual permit fees. Another noncompliant business, Calla Lily Crepes, said it will continue operating indoors, believing it has no other choice.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Dan Miller said if more restrictions come from the state, he would not be the one to enforce them on businesses.
“I am going to formally protest and object to the state trying to push us back into a red tier. Nevada County earned that orange tier by hard work and being diligent,” Miller said.
“We’re going into the holiday season where our retail businesses need as much business as they can get… I’m not quite sure how much of a compliance we’re going to get from businesses because I’m certainly not going to ask for any type of enforcement on it.”
During the meeting the board also approved contract extensions for Johnson and deputy public health officer Glennah Trochet.
According to Human Resource Director Steve Rose, the county is actively recruiting to permanently fill the public health officer position and no candidate has been identified.
“A lot of public health officers are being put into a very political position across the state and across the country,” he said. “There’s been a lot of movements and vacancies in that position and it’s just a tough market.”
John Orona is a Staff Writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 530-477-4229.
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