PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) — The Placer County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to end the “local health emergency” in the county, prompting the resignation of the county’s health officer and confusion about what that means for people, and businesses, in Placer County.
Following the vote on Tuesday, many took to social media asking questions like, “Can I go shopping without a mask?”
According to Board Chair Bonnie Gore, despite yesterday’s vote, the county must still follow state guidelines, which means businesses should still comply with the state order. The state can still enforce the governor’s health orders with its authority to revoke licenses and shut businesses down. However, with this vote, Placer County is officially saying that their local health officers and law enforcement won’t be enforcing those orders.
Realistically, it really doesn’t change much, since aside from a few letters and visits, Placer County hasn’t really been enforcing health orders anyway.
“I think it is a public recognition of what we all know,” Supervisor Kirk Uhler said of the resolution. “While there might be certain pockets around this state that are experiencing higher numbers, the vast majority of this state is in no way, shape, or form meeting the definition of a public health emergency.”
In fact, the vast majority of public comments during the meeting were in support of ending the health emergency.
“I will just say ditto to all your other callers,” one caller said. Another caller, in support of ending the health emergency, specifically thanked the “Freedom Angels” for giving them the chance to speak.
Emails received by CBS13, in addition to Facebook comments, indicted that many callers in support of the resolution were encouraged to phone in by organizers. Some complained that people were calling in from outside of Placer County in support of the resolution, while local residents who opposed the vote could not get through.
Several people on social media offered sympathy to the county health officer, Dr. Aimee Sisson, during the vote. They posted comments including, “If Dr. Sisson is smart she quits,” and “I feel bad for her and for us.”
And quit is exactly what Dr. Sisson did. A board member told CBS13 Sisson quit by text as soon as the supervisors voted and went into closed session.
When asked if they were surprised by her resignation, Gore said, “I was surprised and not surprised,” and Uhler said he didn’t know how to answer that question.
Back in June, the board took away the county health officer’s authority to decide when to end a local health emergency, and it was no secret they often disagreed. In her resignation letter, she said, “I can no longer effectively serve in my role.”
Dr. Sisson is one of many local health officers who have resigned amid the pandemic after facing opposition from local residents and politicians.
“She thinks the board is making a wrong decision. Does that concern you?” asked CBS13 investigative reporter Julie Watts.
“We are responsible for the entire health of our community,” Gore said. “So not just COVID issues, but economic health, mental health, emotional health, all of those have been affected by the shutdown.”
The Placer County supervisors say hope their vote is heard around the state.
“I would encourage each county to look at their numbers, look at the arguments we made as a board. See if you can make the same arguments to get your county open,” Supervisor Uhler said.
In a social media post Wednesday night, after this story was initially published, the county linked to the official declaration of the end of the local health emergency, stating, “the resolution expresses the board’s concerns that the state framework for measuring COVID-19 mischaracterizes the current state of disease in Placer County and harms the community’s economic, health, mental and social well-being.”
Former Placer County health officer Dr. Rob Oldham was recently hired back as the Director of Health and Human Services for the county. They say he will be stepping into Dr. Sisson’s role in the interim.
CBS13 reached out to the governor’s office and Dr. Sission but did not hear back. The county health department provided us with a copy of Dr. Sisson’s resignation letter.
The California Department of Public Health Provided the following statement Wednesday evening after the story initially aired:
“The statewide public health orders, including the statewide Guidance for Use of Face Coverings, are still in effect. Placer just moved into the Tier 2 or “Substantial” transmission in the blueprint for a safer economy, and the activities that are allowed are in Placer County can be found here.”
In a joint statement, Dr. Erica Pan, acting state public health officer, and Sandra Shewry, acting CDPH director said:
“California’s public health officials work around the clock to implement data-driven and evidence-based measures needed to keep their communities healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. These hardworking public servants are crucial partners in our collective efforts to stop disease transmission, and they have earned our respect, support, and patience, not resistance, division, and threats. We stand behind our local public health officials and encourage our communities to come together and keep each other safe.”
NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information and quotes.