Nevada County supervisors hold 1st in-person meeting since March, pause public comment
Special to the Sierra Sun
Tempers flared Tuesday morning.
At its first in-person meeting since March, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors temporarily shut down public comment, leading citizens in attendance to leave in protest.
About a dozen members of the public attended, filling open spaces between clusters of seats blocked off with caution tape to encourage distancing. Although face coverings were required when in the Eric Rood Administrative Center, many residents went unmasked once inside.
During the public comment period for items not on the agenda, residents had varied messages, but all speakers were in some fashion opposed to the state’s public health mandates and the county’s handling of the shutdown.
People talked about the economic hardships they’ve felt since the shutdown response to COVID-19, and called for an end to what they described as a public effort targeting those who do not wear face coverings in public.
While the meeting was passionate from the start, things began to get heated when the public had the opportunity to question Public Health Officer Ken Cutler following a presentation updating the board on the COVID-19 situation.
Residents’ complaints ranged from wanting exceptions to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mask order (which already exempts children and people with health issues), to questioning the policy of social isolation over relying on community immunity, to calling for a holistic medicinal approach to combating the pandemic.
According to Cutler, the community immunity approach — which requires a majority of a population be immune to the virus, giving it little chance to spread — would come at a “great cost” because it’s not yet known what level of antibodies are needed and for how long they might offer protection.
Following a truncated question period punctuated by outbursts from the public and reminders to follow board norms, tensions erupted just after the final question was asked.
After being told by board chairwoman Heidi Hall to direct questions to the board, Tara Thorton, co-founder of protest group Freedom Angels, asked if Cutler would immediately share the best practices for treating COVID-19.
“Dr. Cutler, why don’t you let us know where we have all that information on our website,” Hall said.
Before an answer could be given, Thorton repeated the question, prompting Hall to warn her that if she couldn’t obey the rules, a recess would be called. When Thorton again repeated the question, Hall called for a recess.
The board reconvened about 10 minutes later, though the group of speakers had left as public comment would be closed.
Public comment on the remaining agenda items was still allowed.
John Orona is a reporter for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in Grass Valley. Contact him at email@example.com or 530-477-4229.
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