The ongoing, unquestioned, continuation of declarations of emergency due to coronavirus were questioned at the Tuesday, Nov. 16, county Board of Supervisors meeting, and opened up for further public discussion next month.

The declarations go back to March of last year after then-President Donald Trump and Gov. Gavin Newsom both declared national and state emergencies respectively on March 3 and March 4 due to coronavirus and its impacts on health, the government and the economy.

The Trinity County Board of Supervisors then ratified proclamations made by both the Public Health Officer and the Director of Emergency Services confirming the existence of both a “local emergency” and a “local health emergency” for Trinity County.

The proclamation for a local health emergency states, in part, “The Trinity County Health Officer does hereby find there is an imminent and proximate threat to public health from the introduction of COVID-19 into Trinity County... and that a local health emergency now exists or is now threatened to exist throughout this county,” and was signed March 13, 2020, by the Public Health Officer, and on March 17, 2020, was ratified unanimously by the Board of Supervisors.

The proclamation for a local emergency stated that effects of the virus were “deemed likely to exceed the services, capabilities, personnel, equipment and facilities of the county and… that a local emergency exists throughout the County of Trinity,” and was signed March 19, 2020, by the Director of Emergency Services, and ratified unanimously March 23, 2020, by the Board of Supervisors.

Since March 2020, the board has received regular updates and held numerous discussions on the state of coronavirus throughout the county while summarily reaffirming both states of emergency without discussion through the consent agenda.

Until the two most recent board meetings.

At the Nov. 2 Board of Supervisors meeting, Weaverville resident Jack Nordlund spoke, imploring the board that the declarations of emergency surrounding coronavirus be questioned and considered in open discussion. Sup. Keith Groves asked for the items to be pulled from consent and a brief discussion was held with the board ultimately opting to continue the declaration, but requesting county staff come back with more information for the Nov. 16 meeting for further discussion.

“I don’t see the emergency, and the information that has been given back to me is that (we) risk funding for the county healthwise and... for businesses,” said Sup. Jill Cox, who requested that both declarations be pulled from the consent agenda at the Nov. 16 Board of Supervisors meeting for further discussion.

“Originally, months ago, I panicked over the businesses because COVID was tough and I wanted to see businesses I represent get what they could,” Cox said, on the issue of the local emergency declaration, “But what I’m hearing from District 2, now, is it’s a bigger deal to stand up and say ‘you can keep your money and we will keep our freedoms.’ So that’s why I pulled the item.”

County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns said that the local emergency declaration allowed the county, and businesses in all districts, to be eligible to apply for federal grants and loans they would otherwise not be eligible for without the declaration.

Sup. Jeremy Brown also noted that effects from coronavirus had been seen throughout the county.

“Regardless of anyone’s view on the health aspect of the coronavirus being an emergency, it creates an unstable environment for all of our county processes to function under, and that deems, in my mind, an emergency of its own,” Brown said. “The extra time staff has to deal with looking into these issues that are all new; that gets billed to the county, and this is just a mechanism for reimbursement.”

Sup. Groves, echoing an earlier public commentary discussion during the meeting about vaccines mandates for children and schools, pointed out that having the declarations in place also allows for freedom of choice for others.  

“We heard a lot of people ask for choice today. They want to choose what is good for them. Which means there’s people that can choose to get the shots, which means there’s people that can choose not to. I lean the same way here,” Groves said.

“If we declare and we keep the emergency going there’s people that can choose to get the money and there’s people that can choose not to get the money, whatever is available out there,” he said. “Having this go on allows choice of the individual to keep doing what they choose is best for their business and their lives.”

Sup. Brown noted a similar sentiment on the local health emergency aspect.

“I’ll note, too, that 62% of Trinity County has been fully vaccinated,” Brown said. “This does allow more choice for the general public. It doesn’t hinder anyone’s choices at all.”

The current vaccination rate for Trinity County, according to the county’s coronavirus data dashboard at www.trinitycounty.org/COVID-19/Dashboards, shows current vaccination rates at 47% as of Monday, Nov. 22. However, the dashboard has only recently started to include children ages 5 to 11 as eligible for the vaccine, causing a significant change to the data.

Sup. Dan Fraiser then made a motion to continue the declaration for another 30 days, but that when it comes back to the board it not be on the consent calendar but be considered as an open item for discussion. In the same motion he also directed county staff to be able to present what the “ramifications would be if we ended the emergency declaration and the benefits if we retain it, and what actually constitutes the emergency.”

After a failed attempt to amend the motion by Sup. Cox — who requested staff have the information available to the public earlier than the Friday evening before the next meeting so that there was greater time for review — Frasier’s motion passed unanimously.

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