Nevada County Board of Supervisors’ ordinance fining noncompliant businesses to return next meeting
Special to the Sierra Sun
NEVADA CITY — Protesters outside the Eric Rood Administrative Center and business owners defying state COVID-19 orders shared a small victory Tuesday.
After receiving hundreds of comments on both sides of the issue, the Board of Supervisors pulled from its agenda an ordinance that, if enacted, could have imposed hefty fines for businesses noncompliant with COVID-19 mandates. According to Board Chairwoman Heidi Hall, the ordinance will come back before the board at its next meeting, “after we‘ve done a good job correcting the misinformation.”
The ordinance called for a $1,000 fine for the first violation of a COVID-19 order involving a business activity, $5,000 for a second violation within one year and $10,000 for additional violations within that same year.
Ken Paige, co-owner of Friar Tuck’s, called the decision a “small but meaningful victory.” In an email Sunday Paige called for supporters to protest outside the government center, which saw about 60 people gather in opposition to the ordinance and other COVID-19 orders.
According to Paige, he will continue operating his business despite being one of three restaurants to receive notices of violation last week, effectively revoking their food facility permits. County officials have said the resulting fines have cost the three businesses — Old Town Cafe, Sergio’s Caffe and Friar Tuck’s — $3,575 each as of Tuesday. They will be fined $1,000 for each additional day they are operating.
“At this point we are putting our money where our mouth is,” Paige said in an email. “We cannot allow mandates and decrees that are not proven to destroy Nevada City. A restaurant may come and go but the amount of fear that is gripping people is extremely damaging and may never repair itself.”
In emails both Paige and Sergio’s Caffe owners Lena and Sergio Martignago expressed skepticism over the virus and resulting public health guidance.
Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Johnson addressed similar claims to the board Tuesday.
“I would challenge anybody who thinks there is no pandemic: why don’t you go spend a day or two in an (intensive care unit), or listen to one of the ICU docs or emergency room docs or nurses talk about the life-wrenching decisions that they make,” Johnson said. “When you see that some of the ICUs in some of the counties in California are packed to over 120% capacity, I don’t know how you can believe there really is no pandemic.”
Johnson said another myth often repeated is that herd immunity should be encouraged, but because little is known about long-term consequences of the virus or the effectiveness of antibodies, that is not recommended.
He also addressed frequently heard claims that wearing masks is ineffective and potentially harmful.
“Face coverings are not perfect by any means, but they are one of the tools that we do have to reduce the spread of the virus,” he said. “What it really boils down to is individual behavior: social distancing, face coverings, and hand washing.”
John Orona is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. Contact him by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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