Nevada County conducts over 250 outreach visits; no business shut down
Restaurateurs who vowed to remain open despite this week’s statewide shutdown of indoor operations are, so far, still in business.
“I think our county did an incredible job of responding initially to the shutdown. We took a hard hit in business to do that,” said Chad Paige, co-owner of Friar Tuck’s in Nevada City, who said Tuesday they will keep indoor operations open. “Now that we all had the time to see the effects of what’s happening, we just feel our county should be able to make the decision for ourselves whether to stay open or not.”
According to Environmental Health Director Amy Irani, the county conducted more than 250 outreach visits to businesses across the county Wednesday, most of whom were cooperative and none of which have been shut down.
“Our goal is that education will achieve compliance,” Irani said in an email. “Our last resort would be to suspend the operational permit if the business continues to not be willing to come into compliance for community and employee health and safety.”
However, the county still needs to touch base with dozens of businesses — including Old Town Cafe in Grass Valley, which hosted Republican U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa and a group of protesters rallying against the order inside the restaurant Tuesday.
On Tuesday LaMalfa endorsed a local approach to the shutdown, saying western Nevada County has not been a hot spot for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Democrat Audrey Denney is challenging LaMalfa for his seat in the November election.
“If business owners are continuing to operate indoors and intend to defy the state’s mandate, we will reach out as the local enforcement agency for their food permit,” Irani said.
While the environmental health department is the lead agency in enforcing food facility permits, state agencies, such as those regulating alcohol permits, could become involved in enforcement as well.
The county will host an online workshop at 3:30 p.m. today for business owners who have questions about the latest restrictions.
“Education for businesses who are not in compliance with the state’s order will always be our first priority before any action is taken, but we will continue to follow the guidance from our public health experts to keep the community’s health and safety at the forefront,” County Executive Officer Alison Lehman said in an email.
The statewide shutdown comes as hospitalizations and cases across the state and neighboring counties have climbed.
While the local cases and hospitalizations have remained manageable so far, according to interim public health officer Dr. Richard Johnson, that could attract more movement and increased transmission.
“With Nevada County’s neighboring counties seeing significant case increases and increased restrictions from the state, there is concern that without similar restrictions in Nevada County there would be more travel to Nevada County from other areas and would increase COVID-19 cases locally. In particular with bars, we know that people typically relax their behavior and adherence to COVID safety precautions when drinking,” Johnson said in an email.
“We know that our county borders are porous. People should continue to follow the recommended precautions when out in public to help limit the spread. Protecting the community and limiting the spread of COVID-19 is our shared responsibility.”
In response to the restrictions Grass Valley officials Wednesday blocked off a one-block section of Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley from Bank Street to West Main Street to encourage visitors to visit the “outdoor pavilion.”
Mill Street between Neal Street and Bank Street was also converted into a one-way street that continues down Bank Street.
City Manager Tim Kiser said there was no timeline for how long the changes would last, but the city plans to rent picnic tables to create a unified theme throughout the area.
While it’s not clear whether the still operating businesses will affect the county and cities’ recent allocation of Coronavirus Relief Funds, Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout encouraged people to follow the state guidelines to ensure that it doesn’t.
“We are hopeful that all of our businesses will comply with the state orders so as not to jeopardize the funding,” Swarthout said in an email. “In particular dollars that can be contributed to our front line organizations in the community will help us get through the pandemic and come out with these institutions intact. I urge all businesses to follow the guidelines that have been established so we don’t put our community in a position to face further setbacks.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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