Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon is resigning himself to the likelihood his county will slip from ‘red’ into the state’s most restrictive ‘purple’ tier for reopening next week.
The county’s increasing COVID-19 cases per 100,000 is what’s putting it at risk. Even the Elections Department was temporarily closed due to a COVID-19 exposure.
“It’s very degrading to small businesses when corporate places like Costco and Target can stay open.”–Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon
The good news is the county is doing a significant amount of testing which the state in return gives them credit for. The latest example is the county should be at 10.2 cases per 100k, but with extra credit for extra testing, they are at 8.2.
But, to stay in its current red tier, Kings County numbers need to be below 7 new cases per 100,000 residents.
Verboon tells GV Wire℠ by phone, “Kings County policy is not to enforce restrictions on people that have businesses.”
Small Businesses Hurt Most
“It’s very degrading to small businesses when corporate places like Costco and Target can stay open,” says Verboon.
He estimates about 400 small businesses would be affected if the county drops back to purple. The most restrictive tier means restaurants, churches and other businesses would not be able to continue offering indoor services.
On May 15, the board of supervisors held a special meeting to address the concerns of the business community. Ultimately, the board voted to “clarify that local businesses may open up at their own risk if they can operate safely following the guidelines for national chains, and they feel they can justify such actions to the state.”
Kings County received 250 applications when they made up to $5 million in CARES Act funding available to local small businesses . The money was intended to help those that had suffered significant impacts due to shutdown orders. Awards of up to $20,000 per applicant were approved.
Verboon says the county agreed to an initial 14 day shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure the hospital system was not overwhelmed. He says things have changed since the early days of battling the virus.
“I don’t think shutting down due to the virus is a way to cure it,” says Verboon. “We need to learn to live with it.”
“We anticipate if things stay the way they are, that between this week and next week over half of California counties will have moved into a more restrictive tier.”–Dr. Mark Ghaly
Verboon says he gets tested regularly every Monday morning. He says there are 22 testing sites available to residents throughout the county. The county even has a list of free mobile test sites on a rotating weekly basis.
“It’s important for people to get tested regularly,” says Verboon.
Based on the state’s data on November 10, Kings County did enough testing to reduced their case rate per 100k by 2 full points. In comparison, nearby Fresno County didn’t do enough testing, and was penalized from 7.9 cases per 100k to 8.3.
Verboon says he’ll even impose a test policy for people wanting to come to his house for Christmas. “It just takes one person not following the rules to infect others,” says Verboon.
Kings County Small Business Community
The co-owner of Mike’s Grill in Hanford, Patti Murrietta, said they burger spot has been able to stay afloat with takeout and some limited indoor seating. She suspects that if the county does go into the purple tier they’ll have to go back to just takeout and outdoor seating which makes staying in business really difficult.
It’s going to be cold soon,” she says referring to outside seating. “So then what?”
“We’re a mom and pop place. I cannot afford for ABC to come at me, otherwise I would be open.”–Chris Graham, co-owner of Plan B Taphouse
Chris Graham and his wife opened Plan B Taphouse in Hanford about 3 years ago. Graham tells GV Wire℠ that he’s fortunate to have very little debt as a result of being able to outright buy the building. The only employees he has to worry about are himself and his wife.
Graham shut down his 900 square foot business on March 17, and hasn’t been able to open since. He says it’s unfortunate that he can’t use the 2,000 square foot beer garden behind his business because he doesn’t operate a kitchen – which is a state requirement to open.
“We’re a mom and pop place. I cannot afford for ABC to come at me otherwise I would be open,” says Graham. “But it’s not worth it. This is my whole retirement.”
Graham says it’s heartbreaking to see other businesses near him breaking the rules and opening while he remains closed. He says he does have a big problem with Kings County not enforcing the rules on others. “But I also understand, who is going to enforce it? If there’s a complaint they’ll deal with it. If there’s no complaint, they’re turning the other way,” explains Graham.
For Graham’s taproom to open, Kings County would need to be in the ‘orange’ tier. “We’re waiting it out,” says Graham.
Half of Counties Could Drop Tier
California’s health and human services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly spoke on Tuesday when the last batch of COVID-19 data was released.
“We anticipate if things stay the way they are, that between this week and next week over half of California counties will have moved into a more restrictive tier,” says Ghaly. “That certainly is an indication that we’re concerned and that we have to keep a close watch.”