The Clovis City Council will vote Monday night whether to rescind its emergency orders — closing bars, dine-in restaurants, and gyms and limiting the use of city parks — and rely on the state’s stay-at-home order instead.
That doesn’t necessarily mean these businesses will reopen. The goal, according to a staff report, is “to add clarity to the city’s roles and responsibilities under the governor’s stay at home order.”
“(The Clovis emergency orders) were a redundancy, perhaps, that wasn’t that helpful. So that is the intent of the action,” said councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck.
The council will also decide whether to send the governor a letter, asking for the city to reopen and seeking financial help.
Emergency Order Since Mid-March
The city council ratified the coronavirus-related declaration of a state of emergency by Clovis City Manager Luke Serpa on March 16. The council later ratified emergency orders affecting gyms and other places of amusement, bars, restaurants, and city parks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order issued on March 19 called for residents to only leave home for essential services, including shopping for food — whether at the grocery store or a restaurant. Guidance from the state health department recommended take-out options only for restaurants and bars.
City spokesman Chad McCollum said that even if the city rescinds its orders, nothing will change.
“Bars, gyms, and entertainment venues are currently closed and would continue to remain closed if these local orders are lifted. Restaurants would remain closed to dine-in customers but remain open for delivery and pick-up. Social distancing procedures should be followed by anyone utilizing city parks,” McCollum said.
The city’s orders on parks closed down covered-picnic areas, playgrounds, and exercise equipment. Those would be rescinded.
If approved, it would allow “the city to have discretion as to whether those facilities open or close,” McCollum said.
According to the Fresno County Public Health Department as of Monday morning, Clovis had 41 COVID-19 cases. The data does not indicate if any of the eight deaths in the county are from Clovis.
City Proposes Reopening Plan in Letter to Governor
“I think we need to uphold the governor’s shelter-in-place orders. I don’t think during a pandemic, it’s the time when individual locations can kind of make their own rules.” — Councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck
In its proposed letter to Newsom, the council will make its case that its situation is unique.
“One size does not fit all. A reopening process that may fit, and make sense, for the Los Angeles and Bay Area regions does not work for our City,” it states.
The city wants to reopen commerce in phases.
“We would expect the initial reopening phase to still include proper social distancing, continued emphasis on frequent hand washing, retained isolation of at risks groups, proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sanitizing, a requirement to wear face coverings when entering any business or group, limiting of group gatherings to no more than 50 persons, and not allowing sports gatherings with spectators,” the proposed letter says.
The city’s proposal to Newsom would also allow for the reopening of in-person religious services, provided physical distancing measures take place — which means no communion, handshakes, or hugs.
Low-risk businesses would be the first phase allowed to reopen which “include more curbside options for retail locations, manufacturing sites and small businesses with few in-person customers.”
According to state Public Health documents, low-risk businesses include curbside pickup for retail, manufacturing, offices when telework is not an option, and opening more public spaces.
Ashbeck Concerned About Health
Ashbeck said her work as an administrator for Valley Children’s Hospital shaped her view on how aggressive Clovis should be in reopening.
“I think we need to uphold the governor’s shelter-in-place orders. I don’t think during a pandemic, it’s the time when individual locations can kind of make their own rules. I just can’t reconcile those two things,” Ashbeck said. “The public health impacts to me are more worrisome than the long term and some of these shorter-term challenges that folks are dealing with.”
She said she does have empathy for business owners.
“I can’t imagine if someone said I couldn’t do my job for eight weeks,” Ashbeck said.
City Also Asking for State Financial Help
A second proposed letter asks the state for its share of federal stimulus funding. The CARES Act provided the state $8.4 billion for cities with populations of less than 500,000. Cities over that size received money directly. The city of Fresno received $92 million.
Clovis cites a League of California Cities analysis that cities across the state are expecting a $7 billion revenue shortfall because of the pandemic. The losses come from tax revenue (57% of total losses) and hotel taxes (27%), with the remainder attributed to other fees.
The council will receive an update tonight on how much of a financial hit the pandemic is causing.