Fresno · Highlight

Sheltering-in-place drives wedge between Fresno, Fresno County, Clovis

The City of Fresno issued a new executive order on Wednesday urging the City’s residents to “shelter in place” while recommending the closure of non-essential businesses shutter operations beginning midnight on Thursday through March 31.

Despite the push by Fresno’s City Hall to enact a suggestive-yet-voluntary quarantine, neither the County of Fresno nor the City of Clovis would issue companion orders.

The move exposes a rift between Fresno County Supervisors and senior executives, whose public health officials hold the exclusive purview over the public health response to coronavirus, and the County’s largest city.

Throughout Wednesday, Fresno County Supervisors were steadfast in their position that issuing a shelter-in-place order, while nearly impossible to enforce, was also unnecessary given the small number of confirmed cases and limited data available.

Clovis Mayor Drew Bessinger echoed those concerns after meeting with Fresno County Public Health officials

“I just attended a Police Chiefs’ meeting where the County’s Interim Health Officer updated the group,” Clovis Mayor Drew Bessinger said in a statement. “According Dr. Vohra, there continues to be two continued COVID-19 cases in Fresno County, and they are both travel-related. There are no confirmed community transmission cases in the County at this time. We continue to follow the Fresno County Department of Public Health’s expertise in this situation.”

The City of Fresno’s order mirrors those issued in counties around the Bay Area beginning on Monday night, albeit without the strict mandates issued by those northern California counties.

During his wide-ranging press conference Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he would expand the Bay Area directive across California.

However, most of Newsom’s actions in the coronavirus have been issued as guidance and are not binding orders. Newsom left open the possibility of a statewide quarantine during the press conference, noting the state’s ability to quickly enact martial law.

City officials stressed that the shelter in place order is less mandate and more strongly-worded urgence.

“The City of Fresno is NOT ordering residents to shelter in place. We are asking them to comply voluntarily,” City communications director Mark Standriff said in a statement following the announcement of the executive order. “It is not MANDATORY. It is not a SHUT DOWN. We are simply calling on our residents to shelter in place.”

Despite that, Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias sought to have Fresno Police officers utilize their police power to force Fresnans to comply with the shelter-in-place order, City Hall sources told The Sun.

Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall strongly pushed back on the idea. Opposition from him and Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld led to the demise of Arias’ pitch.

So what does the order specify? In plain English, it recommends Fresnans only leave their home for limited reasons:

  • To engage in outdoor activity provided they comply with social distancing requirements of at least six feet between people outside of the same family
  • To perform any of the activities deemed essential
  • To engage in activities or tasks essential to their health and safety or their family members’ health and safety
  • To obtain necessary services or supplies like groceries or household necessities
  • To care for a family member or pet in another household
  • To obtain health care services

What qualifies as an essential business under Fresno’s new guidance? Here’s a list that City leaders say reflects those covered in the executive order:

  • Health care operations
  • Grocery stores (including stores that sell grocery and non-grocery products)
  • Convenience stores
  • Food cultivation and farming businesses
  • Gas stations
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Hardware stores
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and other businesses needed for the sanitation and maintenance of businesses and residences
  • Mailing and shipping facilities
  • Educational institutions
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Restaurants (with delivery or carry-out restriction per Tuesday’s executive order)
  • Businesses that deliver groceries and food directly to residences
  • Airlines, taxies, and private transportation providers,
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children
  • Residential facilities for seniors, adults, or children
  • Professional services (legal, accounting)
  • Childcare facilities

Non-essential businesses that hold conditional use permits with the City that continue to operate in violation of the executive order may have their permits revoked.

City leaders cautioned that, given grocery stores will remain open under the shelter-in-place advisory, Fresnans should not engage in panic-buying.

Read the order:

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.