YUBA COUNTY (CBS13) — Governor Newsom’s office is warning counties defying the state stay-at-home orders they could lose coronavirus disaster funding.
CAL OES Director Mark Ghilarducci sent a letter, dated May 7, to Yuba, Sutter, and Modoc Counties, which have all begun reopening their economies, allowing businesses such as hair salons, retail shops, and restaurants to fully open.
According to the letter obtained by CBS13, Ghilarducci said the counties’ actions “jeopardize public health and safety, not only within the county, but beyond, through community contact and spread.”
He explained that the counties’ actions could threaten their eligibility for disaster funding, which is designed to help communities “facing extraordinary circumstances beyond the jurisdiction’s capability.” Essentially, if the counties believe there is no emergency and ignore the statewide directives, they could no longer show they were “extraordinarily and disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” impacting their eligibility for disaster funding.
Earlier this week, Governor Newsom issued a stern warning to the counties.
“They’re making a big mistake and they’re putting the public at risk. They’re putting our progress at risk,” he said.
Ghilarducci warned if these areas see a surge in coronavirus cases, their actions right now could make them ineligible for state reimbursement.
The state asked the counties to take a step back and fall in line with the current guidance from the governor’s office, which allows some retail stores to open for curbside pickup, and manufacturing to open with certain precautions. The governor is allowing counties to seek local variance and move through the stages of reopening more quickly if they meet certain criteria such as testing capabilities, surge capacity, and PPE supply.
A Yuba County spokesperson provided a statement to CBS13 Friday evening: “We received the letter and understand the Governor’s direction. As always, we are working to do what is best for the overall health of our communities, and we will continue coordinating with Governor’s representatives on achieving balance with his order.”
CBS13 also reached out to FEMA Friday about the funding. The agency declined to comment, referring us to the State of California for more information.
State Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) says the state guidelines are being followed.
“Everything that Yuba and Sutter Counties has done has been consistent with public health and safety. And I see no basis whatsoever to deprive them of federal funds that they are entitled to, just like every county in the state,” Gallagher told CBS13. “The order that was issued in Yuba-Sutter Counties was consistent with federal guidelines and public health guidelines.”
As of Friday evening, there were 52 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yuba and Sutter Counties, and three reported deaths. More than 2,300 residents have been tested. Modoc County has no reported cases of the virus. According to the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office, 106 residents have been tested.
A number of businesses in Yuba and Sutter counties told CBS13 they are rethinking their reopenings after being contacted by state agencies that could revoke their licenses. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said they’re still taking the educational approach, but not enforcing yet.
Newsom said many of those business owners seem to be cooperating.
“Just those phone calls and number of visits really served the community well,” Newsom said. “Many of those establishments saying ‘I get it, we’re going to shut down.'”
Newsom also added the state is eager to open these businesses as fast as possible, but needing to do it safely.