Heidi Hall: Reopening responsibly for a healthy, thriving Nevada County
This article has been updated to reflect the correct date Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the stay-at-home order.
Since the governor’s Stay-at-Home order was issued on March 19, Nevada County, like every community around the world, has struggled to meet the challenges brought on by a global pandemic.
While some communities have rushed to reopen, defying state law, jeopardizing emergency funding and state business licenses, and hoping for the best against recommendations from experts, Nevada County has shown extraordinary commitment to the better path and has now met the state’s readiness criteria to move further into Stage 2 reopening. I am proud of collaborative planning required to safely reopen businesses in compliance with state orders and health recommendations. This is what the majority of our residents want, private and public leadership advocating for a sustainable, safe and ethical path through the 4 reopening stages.
While there is much to celebrate, reopening will not look like business as usual and businesses will need to follow the guidance from the state and county in order to protect their employees and customers. County staff is ready to help all businesses navigate next steps and county supervisors from every district continue to meet with cities, nonprofits, businesses and constituents to hear their concerns and ideas.
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We know our local businesses are suffering unimaginable losses and seasoned professionals are facing challenges they could have never anticipated. Meeting these challenges requires creativity and commitment. There are now multiple programs for disaster relief business loans, unemployment supplements, and a local relief fund that will go to the most direct needs. We understand this is not enough and will continue to find and harness every resource for Nevada County as quickly as possible.
With this exciting news, comes more responsibility to hold firm on our collective safe reopening strategy. Testing centers, which opened last week, are an important part of this. While the national data reflects a flattening of the curve due to numbers decreasing in urban centers, this is not true of rural areas. Nevada County is holding steady due to the diligence of our community, but infection rates are rising in rural areas like ours across the country.
Without ongoing testing data or tracing we are unable to understand the scope of the issue as it changes. Although numbers vary and more research needs to be done, it is estimated that up to 25-50% of the population could be asymptomatic carriers. They might be our friends and family and have no idea they could be infected. These locations provide up to 135 tests per day. We are now able to gather real data on how this virus is impacting our area and continue to move forward.
Board Vice Chair Dan Miller and I had an opportunity to visit our Grass Valley testing site and get tested. All are welcome to sign up regardless of symptoms for free testing at lhi.care/covidtesting. The more data we have locally, the better we can plan for sustaining a healthy and thriving economy.
While we received a number of requests for an immediate reopening of businesses, we have also received as many pleas to speak out about misinformation and the rush to reopen everything at once. These are employees who may be required to return to work in high-risk environments before it is safe, elder folks who are the majority of our population and are at greater risk, and responsible community members and business owners who have sheltered in place to protect us all. Their efforts should be respected. During unprecedented challenges, our response cannot be based on frustration.
Let’s continue to respect science and our fellow residents’ hard work to stay at home. Reach out to help our neighbors, support local restaurants, donate to the Nevada County Relief Fund, send a card to your hairdresser with a tip, donate to a nonprofit, or simply send an email to your favorite business to let them know you appreciate their commitment to our safety and will be back as soon as your budget or circumstances allow.
This is a global emergency that requires a local response. In times of great strife, a kind word goes a long way and we can all afford that. Let’s do this together and find the patience to go for the more sustainable win for Nevada County.
Stay informed during a quickly changing emergency. Visit http://www.mynevadacounty.com/Coronavirus for resources and updates. Businesses with questions about modifying business practices to keep customers safe and slow the spread of COVID-19 can email COVID19recovery@co.nevada.ca.us.
Heidi Hall is the District 1 supervisor and chair of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
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