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Coming Out of COVID Shutdown

Karl RodeferAs Tuolumne County continues planning for coming out of the current “Stay-at-Home” response to COVID-19 and reopening our businesses, we need to address the needs of those businesses while still respecting the continuing public health concerns associated with potential spread of COVID-19 within our County.  To get it right we will need wide-spread community support.  Our approach needs to be both rational and balanced as well as both effective and achievable for our business community.  Our County will, in step with the President’s national framework and California’s Roadmap, return to work in a phased approach.  What those phases will look like are, with public input, currently being defined.  They need to be as flexible as possible to allow for as broad-based as feasible implementation.  They also will likely evolve as we go through the process of implementing them based on what we observe as we evolve.   It is not possible to over-emphasize the direct relationship of community cooperation and support to the pace and scale with which we can get through these transitions.  We must be successful in each phase in order to move to the next phase.

A priority must be to get as many of our businesses back to a meaningful level of operation as soon as possible while maintaining a reasonable level of physical distancing.  Ideally that would be all of them and today, but we still must work in concert with our State and Federal leadership.  When the Governor is ready to go, so will we be.  To make this all work we will need the buy in from our residents and business owners.  We also are going to have to come together as a community.  There are a lot of opinions and emotions out there.  They cover the full range and intensity of the spectrum.  As we come out of the shut-down, the process will likely not satisfy anyone completely.  The truth is that COVID-19 remains a very real, if not proximate, health threat to our residents.  Opening our businesses will make Tuolumne County the strongest magnetic force in the universe for those who will remain locked down in their own counties and cities.  Migration of people from hot spots outside our county can lead to an outbreak and community transmission of the disease in our county.  It is possible that importation of the disease could lead to a level of disease that cannot be contained.  Having said that, the truth also is that there are other dimensions that contribute to the overall public health picture.  Emotional, psychological, financial and social health are just as important contributors as managing disease.  We are at or very near the tipping point for many of our residents in various of those dimensions.  To strike the delicate balance of addressing all public health for our people we must find common ground that we can all at least live with in the near term.  

If we follow some basic premises, we can hopefully find that common ground.  First and foremost, we must approach this whole exercise with mutual respect and concern for each otherdespite whatever differences of opinion we may have.  The second basic premise is that each of us has the primary responsibility for keeping ourselves and our families healthy.  If someone does not feel that it is safe to go out, they should stay at home.  If someone chooses to go out and encounters a situation that they find uncomfortable or unsafe, they should withdraw from that situation.  If someone feels that the situationthey encounter is a significant public health risk, they should report the issue to the proper authorities.  It is in the best interest of every business owner to make their business environment as comfortable for the most customers as possible. If customers do not feel safe, they will not feel comfortable.  The business ownerknows how to best make their place of business one that people feel safe going into.

As we move forward finalizing our plans for coming out of our current Stay-at-Home status, we hope to do so in concert with those principles and premises discussed above.  We must do so in a manner that assures all our businesses that wish to reopen a framework for doing so that accomplishes both of the following:  The flexibility necessary to adapt the framework successfully to their place of business while still adequately addressing the public health concerns associated with potential spread of the COVID virus into our County.  We won’t fully satisfy those who want to do nothing to mitigate the threat of the disease and immediately go back to the old normal and it will also not satisfy those who want the county to stay locked down indeterminably until there is a vaccine in place.  It will be the first step in saving many of our businesses and the livelihoods of those who own and operate them as well as those of their employees and it will keep in place the necessary safeguards necessary to protect our vulnerable populations.  



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