Stanislaus County took a major step Tuesday in relinquishing government control acquired from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors unanimously terminated the local emergency, which had been in place since March 2020 and gave the board the power to make quick decisions in regard to the pandemic.
Those powers, though, were not used over the last year, Sheriff Jeff Dirkse told the board.
Dirkse brought the resolution before the board and noted that the local emergency was used in 2020 for the county to purchase personal protective equipment.
The board made its unanimous decision after over 30 people spoke during the public comment section, which took multiple hours.
“The needle is moving. We’re making progress here, and it doesn’t happen quickly. These rights were taken away from us very quickly, and for good reason at the time – it was panic time, nobody knew. But as we’ve learned all this knowledge we’ve gained through this pandemic, it’s been hard to get people to back away from those initial moves that were made, almost to the point it seems like people think well if we let that happen now we’re saying we were wrong,” Chairman Terry Withrow said.
“We’ve just learned more information now. We’ve learned. So it’s not about pointing fingers. It’s just when the reality of it is we find out that these things need to be changed, then we need to change them and not be afraid to do that and think that we want to hold onto these things and clutch them in our hands to our dying moment.”
With the board stripping its pandemic administrative powers, the separate local health emergency could soon follow.
The local health emergency is crucial for mutual aid agreements necessary for the county’s health care services,” County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said.
“What does happen behind the scenes, our local hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and others will work through the mutual aid process and reach out and say, ‘We need ‘X’,’ whether it’s materials or it’s staffing, we need other things that we do not currently have access to,” Hayes said.
“And we work through this very prescribed process in our region to look out for additional resources. From the very beginning that idea that the resources that are necessary, whether it’s staffing people or things are not available to handle the immediate needs of the community, that was one of the immediate hallmarks for what it takes to have an emergency declaration.”
The board kept the local health emergency in place but directed county staff to return within 30 days to review the need for continuing that order.
Removing the administrative local emergency will have no impact on the various federal COVID-19 stimulus funds that the county has received and will receive, according to the agenda item.