Sutter County officials are questioning the rationale behind closing down businesses in the area, despite recent surges in coronavirus infections.
The Sutter County Board of Supervisors voiced its opposition in a letter sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday, just days before the county was placed on a state coronavirus watchlist due to heightened infection rates.
The letter, signed by Ron Sullenger, the chairman of the board, pointed out that public health officials have been consistent in identifying the leading cause of infections as in-home gatherings.
“In Sutter County, contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases shows the great number of cases are related to family gatherings of people from multiple households,” county officials wrote. “It seems unjust to close certain businesses at this economically perilous moment without evidence they are a significant factor in the spike in cases.”
Sutter County was officially added to the state’s watchlist on Thursday due to increasing infection rates, and although the California Department of Public Health did list family gatherings as the top factor, it also cited workplace transmissions as another cause.
Due to Sutter County’s position on the watchlist for several days, County Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu issued a new public health order that will effectively shut down much of the local economy starting Sunday. The orders should look familiar in the Sacramento area: bars will be closed, indoor dining will be banned, many entertainment venues will shutter.
“This is an unfortunate step back in the progress Yuba-Sutter was making in re-opening the community,” Luu said in a statement following the new orders, and added that half of all cases in the bi-county region stem from social gatherings, but 40 percent have an unknown origin.
Although the board of supervisors was quick to note its dedication to compliance with federal and state guidance, county officials pleaded to Newsom with a common refrain — local control.
“Businesses in our community and across the state have invested a great deal of money, time and energy in mitigating COVID-19 transmission,” the board’s letter read. “Sutter County asks that the state take a closer look at the actual risk posed by industries, such as food service, where sanitation and social distancing are practiced, and reconsider whether it is necessary to order the closure of these businesses at all. As the state has been willing to do in the recent past, please allow local governments to make these decisions based upon local data.”
Sutter County health officials reported the highest daily increase of infections on Friday, adding 35 new cases for a total of 372 people infected. Four people have died in Sutter County and 14 people are currently hospitalized. Neighboring Yuba County added 17 cases on Friday for a total of 180 infections. Three people have died and 9 people are hospitalized. Yuba County saw a record-high day of infections on July 1, adding 19 new cases of coronavirus.
Yuba County was officially added to the state’s watchlist on Saturday, which bi-county officials have been expecting since earlier this week.