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Calaveras, Angels Camp Lawmakers Hold Special Meeting Today At 3 P.M.

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San Andreas, CA — The Calaveras supervisors, Angels Camp City council members and public will have the chance to query public health officials about loosening COVID-19 restrictions.

The special meeting, which begins at 3 p.m. was set so that local lawmakers could respond to anticipated plans by Governor Gavin Newsom to allow jurisdictions with proactive plans for opening businesses to do so as long as they have set up abilities to do their own coronavirus tracing and testing, have established surge capacity in the event that cases elevate, and rules in place to maintain public health safety, including the ability to shut back down should there be a rise in patients and deaths.

Calaveras County Board Chair Merita Callaway talked with Clarke Broadcasting ahead of the meeting, stressing that the board has no legal authority to say that it will open businesses or to establish conditions and criteria that is more lenient than what the state allows.

“Then it comes to the public health officer, who issues orders for the county, so anything we are looking at doing, modifications for small businesses, comes from the state to Dr. Kelaita after we get some of the clarification.”

With regard to some of the state’s requirements for opening some non-essential businesses, she says dryly, “We already know that the order said a florist, dress shop or sporting goods store — have to have curb-side pickup — and that doesn’t really work. But it is a start, and then Dr. K. can issue the [local] order with conditions.”

In a closed meeting with the supervisors earlier this week during which local officials could not give direction or advice, the doctor provided a status update, acknowledging that residents are getting frustrated.

Advocating For Clarifications

She says she gets it. “I want to open — I need a haircut…we have chosen as almost every county has to follow the state orders and of the few who did not, most are already backing off.” Not going rogue does not mean local lawmakers are not advocating for clarifications pertaining to small retail, low-risk operations such as getting an official date for bait stores to open if fishing is allowed.

Much thoughtful planning will be going into bring back dine-in restaurants, salons, gyms, movie theaters and other business operations at higher risk for spreading infection. Concerts and conventions, which will be the last activities to reconvene, are still months away.

Among her District 3 constituents’ concerns, she shares, “I have been hearing a lot about churches…but most churches here are small with too close quarters and people hugging and the things that we do when we gather at them.”

Callaway gives Dr. Kelaita high marks for being open, thoughtful and judicious as well as for planning ahead in the event of a COVID-19 case surge to be able to reinstate stay at home orders quickly. She says she also understands why he and the board are catching heat from community members who just want them to hurry up and restore the “old normal.”

“I try to get where they are coming from, the fear, frustration and anger, feeling isolated, not being in control,” Callaway confides. “But the Governor made an order…and that is what as a county we are going to do — and if we can open in a healthy and safe manner then what is what we are going to do….start opening the door and then manage it.”

A lot of the management she acknowledges, will be based on an honor system. “Some people are going to say ‘screw it’ and while we are not going to pull your business permit, we are going to come talk to you and see you. We are going to try to be prudent and move towards trying to reestablish health and the economy in the community — and it must be done in tandem. They go hand in hand.”

Finding, Maintaining A Healthy Balance Is Key

Giving residents freedom to do what they want comes with responsibilities to follow public health rules or become a risk to first responders, health care providers and the rest of the community, she points out. “We look for reasonable answers to an emotionally charged issue.”

While public health and the local economy are both important and businesses and communities have been supportive for the most part, she laments the thought of having to go backwards and shut down again because the county relaxed too many restrictions too early.

On the other hand, she states, “We know people from outside the county are coming in and we also know people from inside the county are going out…the gate kind of swings both ways. Coronavirus could come in from a UPS or ambulance driver or from a COSTCO visit. We are not immune to it. Second homeowners coming and going and people are complaining about people not wearing masks and coughing as we are hearing more and more from business owners that we have to open.”

While wineries are not open now for tasting, Callaway says as a board member of the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance, she is hearing from industry members who are working to establish protocols that will herald the county becoming open to visitors.

“If we are inviting them to taste, we need to open restaurants for a place for them to eat, and then lodging, and we are not there yet although some lodging folks have put protocols together and [Economic Development Director] Kathy Gallino is putting protocols together for various accommodations.”

Members of the public who want to observe the meeting can do so by clicking here, and then clicking on the video link pertaining to the meeting date just to the right of the agenda packet link.

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