Board of Supervisors seeks to rescind governor’s emergency declaration to assume local control on businesses’ reopening


Published May 6, 2020

The Placer County Board of Supervisors has approved a resolution asking California’s governor to terminate the current state of emergency declaration and give local control back to counties, thereby allowing them to craft their own guidelines to manage the reopening of businesses while continuing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

“Every county has its own unique set of circumstances when it comes to battling the coronavirus and Placer County is more than capable of implementing reopening plans under the competent guidance of its own county health officer,” said Board Chair Bonnie Gore. “The situation on the ground today is no longer a statewide crisis and the governor should relinquish control back to the counties in accordance with state law.”

 As of May 6, the county had 163 confirmed cases including 8 deaths with approximately 80% of the cases located in south Placer.

The Board of Supervisors is asserting California’s state of emergency is no longer warranted locally and requests Governor Gavin Newsom terminate the declaration, which would rescind all of the governor’s orders and guidelines including the stay-at-home order. 

Newsom announced earlier this week the state would be moving into stage 2 of its 4-stage reopening plan, allowing non-essential retail businesses, such as clothing stores, florists and bookstores, to open May 8 with curbside pick up. The stage 2 portion of the state plan includes in-restaurant dining, but Newsom stopped short of including in-restaurant dining and offices in the initial May 8 reopening. 

“The governor’s plan to reopen a small sector of retail does not go far enough to provide relief for our suffering business community,” said District 4 Supervisor Kirk Uhler. “It is not the loss of life we are currently grappling with but rather the loss of livelihoods. We have had 28,000 people in our county go on unemployment in the last five weeks. That is our emergency right now! We are asking the governor to terminate his emergency declaration and allow counties to declare their own emergencies, if they deem it necessary. This should not be a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire state.”

 The governor signed an executive order this week directing the state public health officer to establish criteria to determine whether and how, in light of local conditions, county health officers may implement public health measures less restrictive than the statewide public health directives. 

The governor indicated counties could request to move more quickly, if they met the criteria, which includes a readiness plan. Additional criteria to be released by the state will require counties to demonstrate a low prevalence of COVID-19 and the ability to meet contact tracing and testing requirements. Ensuring the health care system is prepared for a sudden rise in cases and protecting vulnerable populations were also referenced as benchmarks, with specific criteria still to be released by the state.

“I would like to see the county move as fast as is prudent to create a readiness plan that meets the state’s criteria so that we can reopen our businesses quickly but in a manner that protects our community from COVID-19,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “I have faith in our business community that they will cooperate with mitigation measures just as they have throughout this entire crisis.”

Once the state releases specific criteria for acceleration within Phase 2, which are expected by Thursday, Placer County will certify a readiness plan, if qualified, based on current data. Simultaneously, the County Executive Office is working with community stakeholders, and consulting with the county health officer, to develop guidelines for business owners on measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in order to safely reopen.

The county is currently taking action to increase its testing and contact tracing capabilities to ensure new cases are isolated, and their close contacts are identified, quarantined and tested to contain the spread of the virus.

The board also voted to direct the county executive officer to explore the idea of conducting a COVID-19 seroprevalence study which tests for antibodies to the virus. The research study was proposed by Supervisor Robert Weygandt, who reached out to Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a Stanford University professor, who specializes in adult infectious diseases and is currently conducting COVID-19 seroprevalence studies. 

The study would serve to estimate the burden of the virus in Placer County using a sampling size of 1,000 - 2,000. The CEO is expected to report back to the board on the specifics of conducting this type of study in the near future.