Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced the extension of the city’s shelter-in-place order through April 12 during a news conference Thursday morning at his northeast Fresno home.
“All indications are we have yet to see the worst of this pandemic. I know how difficult this is for everyone,” Brand said. “My wife, Tricia, and I have changed our lifestyle because it’s the right thing to do. The better job that we do now and contain the spread of the coronavirus, the faster we can recover and the faster we can return to our normal lives.”
Brand said he held the news conference at home because he wanted to lead by example for other seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brand is 70 years old.
The mayor did leave open the possibility that the order could be shortened.
“If something changes nationally or locally, we can change too,” Brand said.
Shelter Order Working, Doesn’t Foresee Police Enforcement
The order was set to expire on March 31.
Brand said extending the order was to “protect the lives of as many people as possible.” He said the order has worked thus far in “flattening the curve.”
“I’m proud to say that everything I’ve seen and heard tells me that almost everyone in Fresno is taking this seriously and taking the necessary precautions to protect their own health, helped their family and friends and the health of our entire community,” Brand said.
Brand doubted he would need law enforcement to implement shelter-in-place.
“We don’t have the resources to enforce it at this point in time. But you can see by getting people to voluntarily do the stay at home, it won’t have to reach such drastic measures as some … in Europe right now, where they really have been locking people down. We don’t want to have that,” Brand said. “We want to have people comply. We want to have people live normal lives as soon as possible, have the least disruption as we can.”
Order Through Easter
The extended order ends at 11:59 p.m. on April 12, which is Easter Sunday.
Brand talked about the potential impact on churchgoers.
“(Church) communication is up, not sideways. They’ve taken technology to preach to their members and keep in touch. Most churches are doing voluntary community work and this is based on the best available knowledge we have now,” Brand said.
Federal Aid Coming
As Congress is voting on its $2.2 trillion aid package responding to the crisis, Brand expects some of the money to come to Fresno.
While there is nothing specific, Brand said the money will go to cities with a population of 500,000, qualifying Fresno.
“We’re not certain exactly how it’s going to come down. At least three or four times a week, we have evening phone conferences with the big city mayors in California. So I get to learn what best practices are in other cities and other cities are having basically the same experience we’re having,” Brand said.
Brand is expecting a surge of cases and believes there is enough medical staffing and equipment locally “to meet that challenge.”
City Government in the COVID-19 Era
The city placed a voluntary shelter-at-home order that started March 19. Later that day, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered shelter-in-place mandatory statewide. However, travel to and from essential needs — such as grocery shopping and health care providers— is still allowed.
Since Brand declared a state of emergency for Fresno, the city has asked for businesses deemed non-essential to close. These include bars, dine-in portions of restaurants, and entertainment venues such as movie theaters and stadiums.
The city also effectively closed City Hall to the public, open only for attendance at government meetings. Most business is encouraged to be transacted online. Physical drop boxes to pay bills are available at the entrance to the building.
While city parks and playgrounds remain open, the parking lots are closed to stem access. The city acted on reports of overcrowded parks last weekend where social distancing was not practiced.
The Fresno City Council approved emergency measures for a moratorium on evictions because of COVID-19 financial hardships, anti-price gouging measures, and 0% interest loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic.
The council has held five special meetings since Brand’s emergency declaration on March 16 in addition to its regularly scheduled meeting March 19. Nearly every other commission or committee of Fresno’s government has been canceled.