Local county officials want to prevent the spread of virus
Humboldt County officials have ordered residents to shelter in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The move falls in line with a similar order from Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday evening that called for a similar shelter-in-place order across California.
With the exception of going out for essential activities such as getting groceries, Humboldt County residents have been ordered to stay at home and non-essential businesses have been ordered to shut down, beginning at midnight, one minute after 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
• Perform activities essential to their health and safety, such as obtain medical supplies and medication, going to a doctor and getting the things they need to work from home
• Getting groceries and other essential supplies for themselves or delivering them to others
• Going for walks, hikes or runs, while practicing 6 feet of social distancing and not using communal equipment like playgrounds
• To go to work at a place providing essential services
• To care for family members or animals at another location
County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich issued the order, set to last through April 9, at a press conference at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Chambers on Thursday afternoon. The order, Frankovich said, isn’t because there are any new confirmed cases of COVID-19 — there was one confirmed case in February that recovered out of 87 tests to date conducted both by the county Public Health lab and by commercial entities. But it’s likely, Frankovich said, that the virus is being transmitted at low levels “before it gets on the radar.”
“This move today for us allows us to be proactive about trying to limit any additional spread if there is (COVID-19) existing in our community,” Frankovich said, “and also to slow it when it arrives at our doorstep if it’s not already here.”
Violating the order would be considered a misdemeanor, said Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal, adding that warnings would be issued to first-time violators.
“Our goal is to achieve compliance through education first,” Honsal said. “We are always going to explore that first and then ask for voluntary compliance. The last thing we want to do is cite someone or arrest someone for violating this.”
At the same time, Honsal said, if people aren’t complying, law enforcement will do everything in its power to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Nursing homes have been ordered not to allow visitors unless a “resident is experiencing end of life,” the order states.
Essential businesses are allowed to continue their operations, while others can maintain minimum basic operations. Minimum basic operations is defined by the order as helping employees prepare to work remote and carrying out “the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or related functions.”
Essential businesses include:
• Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks and other establishments that provide groceries
• “Businesses that are necessary to supply agriculture, food, and beverage cultivation, processing and distribution”
• Social service organizations
• Newspaper, television, radio and other media
• Gas stations and auto repair shops
• Banks and other financial institutions
• Hardware and home improvement stores and nurseries
• Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and other service providers “necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences,” essential activities and essential businesses
• Educational institutions
• Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers
• Restaurants and other facilities, but only for delivery or carry out
• Businesses supplying products needed for people to work from home
• Businesses supplying products to enhance the quality of life “in a way that prevents handling by the customer prior to purchase, such as for curbside pick-up”
• Businesses that supply other essential businesses
• Businesses that ship or deliver groceries and other goods and services to residences
• Taxis and other private transportation necessary for essential activities
• Home-based care for seniors, adults or children
• Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults and children
• Professional services, ranging from lawyers to accountants
• Child care facilities
Response from local cities
In response to Thursday’s announcement, Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman said she was going to allow county agencies to take the lead on developing local policies, in order to preserve “one voice” for residents to follow.
“We want to make sure everybody is covered at once, not at little pockets at a time,” Seaman said of the city’s decision not to establish its own policies during the shelter in place event.
Instead, Eureka city manager Dean Lotter and other staff are coordinating with the county to establish a joint response. Seaman said she has advocated for a countywide decision not to allow evictions during the shelter in place order. Newsom has encouraged local governments throughout California to adopt such a policy. At a recent city council meeting, Lotter announced that the city had installed multiple public handwashing stations in Eureka, including one near the Eureka Rescue Mission.
Seaman, meanwhile, recently wrote a blog post urging a “culture of kindness” among city residents during what she called an unprecedented stretch of time.
In Arcata, Mayor Michael Winkler said Thursday the city council will soon hold a special meeting, likely to declare a public health emergency. Winkler said the council will also consider restricting tenant evictions while sheltering in place is mandated.
“These are strange and challenging times,” Winkler said. “This virus has caused a large amount of illness and significant death, so our highest priority is public safety.”
City officials in Fortuna did not respond to requests for comment by presstime Thursday.
A man rides a bicycle past a sign posted over the windows of a store in San Francisco, Thursday, March 19.