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Supervisors Call For More Local Control On COVID-19 Restrictions

A COVID-19 safety guidelines sign at Balboa Park as a family walks in the bac...

Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Above: A COVID-19 safety guidelines sign at Balboa Park as a family walks in the background in this photo taken Oct. 23, 2020.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution asking the state governor's office for more local control when it comes to further restrictions in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Proposed by Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar, the resolution was approved after board members received an update on the county's efforts on combating the virus.

According to the resolution, the county is requesting that "the state continues to regularly consult and incorporate the expertise and judgment of local health officers in the determinations for the most effective non- pharmaceutical interventions in local jurisdictions."

Further, "the state's reopening blueprint must account for hospital and medical system capacity and readiness to provide medical treatment by incorporating data into the analysis in some manner, such as case rate readjustment factor," the resolution states.

Desmond said county officials should be able to determine measures to contain the virus.

"We continue to be stuck in the red tier, and our businesses continue to suffer," said Desmond, who has frequently criticized state restrictions under the four-tiered color-coded system, but he also praised the county's public health staff for their efforts.

"I realize we've sent letters in the past, but we have to keep knocking until that door opens," Desmond said, adding that the county has the appropriate testing capacity and personal protection equipment.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, updated the board on the county's case rate, which stands at 54,941. As of Tuesday, there have been 870 deaths from the coronavirus, with 892 in intensive care units and 3,859 hospitalized.

The county remains in the red tier, Wooten said, but can progress to less restrictive tiers if residents continue preventive measures, such as masks and social distancing.

"Please remember how far we have come, and where we do not want to return," she said. "We want to avoid moving to tier one, or the purple tier."

Wooten also thanked the public for working to keep the county "healthy, safe and thriving."

Gaspar said the county needs to reopen public youth sporting efforts, as children are suffering from a lack of activities.

"Kids have received the least amount of consideration during this pandemic," Gaspar said, adding the state has been silent on youth sports reopening.

She said that families are taking their children to Arizona or Nevada for tournaments, where there are fewer restrictions, but that also carries risk.

"It's preferable to keep them here for play," Gaspar said.

Along with approving the resolution, the board also voted 4-1 to green- light roughly $37 million for numerous capital improvement projects that were put on hold in May due to the pandemic.

Ebony Shelton, deputy chief administrative officer, said county staff recommended allowing the projects to move forward.

Citing concerns over the lack of future federal stimulus, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was the lone no vote.

The county has received more than $300 million from the federal CARES Act to help with everything from small business grants to better testing.

"Most updates are benign, but I'm surprised we'd put capital improvement projects in a COVID update," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said while he loves parks, this isn't the right time to approve more money for building them.

He reminded board members that the county was just two months away from all federal money expiring, and "there's disparity in which communities are suffering the most."

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said that while she agreed with Fletcher on the funding request being included in the regular update, the projects are funded with previous board support.

"I see no reason not to move forward on these," Jacob added. "Every one of these projects is going to put people to work and create jobs."

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