COVID-19 · Fresno

Fresno Co., city focusing on COVID-19 rules education over punishment

As Fresno County deals with the purple tier restrictions in the state’s COVID-19 reopening blueprint once again, the county and the City of Fresno are focussed on education before punishment. 

Per the state’s rules regarding the most restrictive tier that Fresno County has returned to, restaurants, places of worship and gyms must cease all indoor operations, and all retail establishments are confined to 25% capacity. 

Just like the first go-around with the lockdowns, the focus from Fresno County is to educate businesses how to comply with the state-mandated rules. 

Previously, the county had fined businesses after repeated refusals to follow the rules. 

During a Tuesday health briefing, Fresno County Department of Public Health director David Pomaville said the county “takes a progressive approach” when it comes to enforcement. 

“We try to do education and provide consultation and provide technical assistance as the approach that we take on trying to solve all of our public health enforcement problems,” Pomaville said. “So in some regards, the department of public health is a proactive department doing direct clinical services and providing outreach education, but we also have an obligation to provide regulatory oversight of some businesses.” 

Pomaville said the county is prepared to take the necessary action if there are significant public health and safety concerns at businesses, and Cal/OSHA is stepping up its enforcement of businesses who are not following the guidelines. 

With restaurants being one of the most visible business sectors being required to close up shop because of the state, Pomaville noted that the county has seen many COVID-19 cases that were transmitted through indoor environments, including people that have worked together in close proximity. 

“We have seen studies done of indoor air at restaurants and dining facilities that have caused the transmission of the disease,” Pomaville said. “We have seen some cases in Fresno County associated with food establishments, but they have not been the one source that we’re most concerned about. But they are a contributor to gathering people from oftentimes different families, different households into that common space. And that’s what the concern is.” 

Pomaville noted that the county is not the entity that is responsible for creating the rules that are affecting businesses, but that the county is responsible for enforcing the state’s mandates. 

“The framework for public health in California is a statewide model that is implemented through the 58 counties,” Pomaville said. “So we do have an obligation to follow the state health officer and the requirements that the state imposes. We have an obligation to do our best to be able to implement those programs and those protective measures at this point. 

“I share the concern. I share in the frustration, and I think we’ll do everything we can to try to alleviate some of that concern. But we’re not in a position where we can say that businesses can open in defiance of the statewide requirements.” 

The City of Fresno has mirrored the county’s desire to provide education before punishment. 

Mayor Lee Brand said he expects businesses to voluntarily comply with the rules. 

“We expect our local businesses to comply voluntarily with the new restrictions while the city continues to focus on our policy to ‘fix, not fine’ in order to protect the health and safety of our residents,” Brand said. “My own brush with COVID-19 reinforces the need for everyone to follow the guidelines and stop the spread of this pandemic.” 

City council president Miguel Arias added: “We can’t take any more chances with the safety of our community, so we all need to do our part to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 infection. Code Enforcement will continue to educate Fresno businesses to protect the public health and will reserve enforcement for egregious violators not following health guidelines.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.