Jessica Cejnar / Friday, March 20 @ 5:07 p.m. / Community, Emergencies, Health, Local Government

Del Norte Formally Ratifies Emergency Declaration In Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Del Norte County supervisors Friday formally ratified an emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors also unanimously approved a resolution declaring a local health emergency along with an advanced credit sick leave program and telecommuting policy for county employees due to the novel coronavirus.

“(The resolution) summarizes events as they stood a few days ago when we first drafted it,” said Del Norte Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt. “A lot of information is already out of date.”

When Rehwaldt and County Administrative Officer and Director of Emergency Services Jay Sarina issued the state of emergency declaration on Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported roughly 184,976 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide. There were 7,529 deaths across 159 countries, areas or territories.

Within the United States, there were 4,226 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 75 deaths in 53 states, districts and territories, according to Rehwaldt’s resolution.

“The number of confirmed cases continues to escalate dramatically over a short period of time and it is believed that the potential of COVID-19 cases in Del Norte County is an imminent threat and that all citizens, organizations and establishments follow orders and guidance related to COVID-19 as established by federal government, State of California and local government public health authorities,” Rehwaldt’s resolution states.

On Friday, Sarina told the Board of Supervisors that the local emergency proclamation will enable emergency funding to flow to the county “if and when we become eligible for funds.” Noting that the United States and California have already declared emergencies, Sarina said the county was following standard process.

“I declared an emergency seven days ago,” he said. “We have to have it ratified by the Board of Supervisors in order for that to be effective.”

Supervisors also unanimously approved the county’s advanced sick leave program, a stop-gap measure for employees who don’t have sick leave accrual currently, County Counsel Liz Cable said.

“Obviously we don’t want sick people in the office simply because they’re worried about getting paid and being out of accrual during a time of a proclaimed local emergency,” Cable said. “They will be able to get advanced credit for up to 80 hours of sick leave and that will allow them to pay that back in the future. It will be a benefit to employees and county workers to have people out of the office with that ability.”

Though the telecommuting policy was brought to the Board in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cable said it would be something the county could use in future emergencies.This policy will enable staff to continue working while social distancing themselves, Cable said.

“IT staff are working day and night to get as many computers up and running as possible,” she said.

Norma Williams, chapter president of the Del Norte Employees Association, praised both items, saying she met with county representatives on Tuesday to discuss them.

“We appreciate the effort that county employees work in a safe environment,” she said. “We applaud all county employees for their dedication and service to the community.”

In Del Norte County, 27 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of 4:50 p.m. Friday, according to the Public Health Branch. The results for 12 tests are pending and 15 tests have returned negative. There are currently no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Del Norte County, according to the Public Health Branch.

Del Norte’s ratified emergency declaration comes the day after California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order telling people to stay home. On Friday, Emergency Services Manager Kymmie Scott, who has been working with Sarina, Rehwaldt and other local, state and federal emergency representatives, said non-essential businesses will be closed, but those essential to community function will remain open.

These businesses include gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, take out and delivery restaurants, banks and laundromats, she said. Non-essential businesses include dine-in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms, fitness studios, public events and gatherings along with convention centers.

In a joint address Friday, Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore and Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Hemmingsen urged Del Norters to abide by Newsom’s executive order and minimize interactions with others outside their households.

“Please continue to live your lives while following prudent measures to avoid large gatherings and distance yourself from others as recommended,” Hemmingsen said. “Go about your essential business. Get your groceries, walk, hike and talk with your family. We can assist our community by avoiding spread of the virus and have the responsibility to do so.”

Crescent City announced Friday that it will close its offices to the public starting Monday.

The Crescent City Council declared a local emergency at its March 16 meeting, closed the Fred Endert Municipal Pool and suspended all events requiring a city permit. This includes events at the Cultural Center, Beachfront Park along with Live From Downtown: It’s First Friday.

The City Council will re-evaluate its decision to close the pool and suspend events at its April 6 meeting.

At an emergency meeting on March 15, Del Norte Unified School District trustees voted to shutter its schools the following day. Schools will be closed through the end of the district’s spring break, April 20. The Board of Trustees will revisit that decision at its Thursday meeting.



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