Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order for Californians to shelter in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, the Calaveras County Office of Emergency Services (OES) held an informational meeting over Facebook Live on Friday to clarify how county residents will be affected.
OES Director John Osbourn opened by detailing the purpose of the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), recently activated to address the coronavirus.
“We wanted to give our residents and county an update on our EOC, and what the objectives are for COVID-19,” he said. “First and foremost, our primary objective is to keep our first responders, and emergency personnel and public safe at all times. The EOC ensures coordinated, timely and accurate release of public information in the form of press releases, social media content – like today – and coordination with local news outlets.”
Osbourn said that this could be challenging at times.
“The situation is a fluid one, and as soon as we know something we make every effort to make sure that you, too, know,” he said. “The EOC is also tasked with releasing timely and accurate information to all county and city officials, as we are in unified command with the City of Angels. We’re fostering and maintaining relationships with all county cooperators and stakeholders to maintain fiscal accountability and to provide accurate documentation and records required for cost recovery efforts, and lastly, to mitigate the financial impact to the City of Angels Camp and the County of Calaveras.”
The operations of the OES will continue after the virus has run its course, Osbourn said.
“When this event is over, we as the OES will continue to provide assistance related to the impact that this may have on our community and our residents,” he said.
Sheriff Rick DiBasilio said that the spread of the coronavirus had led to a variety of challenges.
“The last couple of weeks have brought on some new challenges, especially with Gov. Newsom’s direction for all Californians, except essential workers, to stay at home,” he said. “The mission is to limit our community from this virus. To do this, we are asking our community to limit their exposure and unnecessary direct contact with each other, maintain that social distancing of six feet, have good hygiene, continually wash your hands.”
DiBasilio said that many activities were still permitted under Newsom’s order.
“The governor’s orders do not stop folks from essential trips like going shopping, going and getting fuel, taking food to your neighbors, going out for a bike ride, hunting, fishing, even going for a hike,” he said. “He’s not limiting us on that. What he is saying is that he does not want us to have direct contact with everybody. Maintain your social distancing. Anytime you’re out, protect yourself and your community members, your friends and your neighbors. Again, social distancing is the key to all of this.”
Newsom’s executive order did not task law enforcement with implementation of the rules, DiBasilio said.
“Per Gov. Newsom, law enforcement has not been tasked with enforcing his rules,” he said. “His goal and his directive is for people to heed his warning and to keep that social distancing in play.”
DiBasilio said that county officials learned of the executive order at the same time as the public.
“Gov. Newsom’s announcement yesterday was brought to us in the same way it was you – on the television last night,” he said. “Nobody in the county knew this was coming.”
Law enforcement will continue to operate as usual, DiBasilio said.
“For anyone out there with thoughts of taking advantage of our citizens and our community, during this emergency the Sheriff’s Office, Angels PD and the CHP are out there doing our jobs, and we are going to continue to do our jobs to keep our community safe. So if you think this is a free ride, you’re greatly mistaken.”
Afterwards, Osbourn and DiBasilio fielded questions posed online. One resident asked about which jobs qualified as essential services.
“If you go to covid19.ca.gov you will find the comprehensive list of essential service sectors and examples of them,” Osbourn said.
Another local asked about measures to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread in the county jail.
“People that are in our facility right now have not been exposed, so we are going to continue to keep them in our facility,” DiBasilio said. “The people that are coming into the jail, which are limited at this point, they are being screened to make sure there’s not any issues with them and that they don’t have the virus, so that they don’t spread that to our inmates that we have.”
One question dealt with efforts to address the spread of the virus within the homeless population.
“Our public health folks and the Health and Human Services Agency is working with the State of California to make arrangements to shelter those who may need to be quarantined in regards to COVID-19,” Osbourn said.
Another question raised concerns about the availability of beds and respirators at Mark Twain Medical Center.
“We are in daily contact with the hospital, both from the emergency operations standpoint as well as the public health standpoint, monitoring their operations,” Osbourn said. “They have planned for a surge in their bed space and are taking appropriate measures to make sure that adequate medical care can be provided here in the county.”
Osbourn said that he wanted to thank county residents for cooperating with the stay-at-home order.
“Calaveras County is engaged and is working to flatten the curve of this virus,” he said. “At the end of the day, the County of Calaveras is working together with our collaborators and our partners to solve this situation. There’s really nothing that the county can’t safeguard us from with cooperation and a combined effort. We urge you to follow the preventative measures and do your part to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our county.”
The OES will continue to answer questions on its Facebook page, Osbourn said.
“Many of the questions we may not have gotten to in this short broadcast,” he said. “We are monitoring the page and trying to answer those questions as best that we can.”
For the full video of the meeting, visit facebook.com/CalaverasOES/videos.