MENDOCINO Co., 8/16/21 — The Board of Supervisors heard an update from Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren this morning on the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant, reporting that it may be necessary to transport patients out of the area due to capacity limitations at hospitals in Mendocino County.
“We do have good resources here but I think we’re probably going to have to spread some of those ICU patients to other counties going forward to maximize the quality of care,” Coren said. Adventist Hospital representatives also reported on record high numbers of hospitalizations and staff strain due to the current surge, noting the need for increased coordination between local hospitals and within the Adventist Health system.
Concerns were raised over mass gatherings and potential super spreader events in Mendocino County or elsewhere on the North Coast, but Coren said he has declined to interfere with fairs, festivals or concerts — encouraging organizers to ask for proof of vaccination or testing instead. Noting that infection rates have increased recently, Coren said he does not believe those numbers are directly related to mass gatherings, but he may still consider curtailing such events in the future.
Emergency Services Coordinator Brentt Blaser with the Office of Emergency Services updated the board about the rapidly expanding scope of the fire weather event forecasted for today and tomorrow. Hot, dry and windy weather paired with an offshore breeze are expected to present a high risk of new fires and ideal conditions for existing fires to spread — so Blaser urged the public to exercise caution regarding the use of generators, which could cause additional fires. Pacific Gas and Electric has warned of a pending Public Safety Power Shutoff that was initially slated to impact just 239 meters county-wide, but as of this morning there were at 1,100 utility customers at risk of losing power during this period of heightened danger.
Disaster settlement earmarks subject to further revision
A plan to earmark $19.6 million in one-time disaster settlement funds from PG&E was removed from the consent calendar after a member of the public asked the board to consider allocating a larger portion of that sum to the communities of Redwood Valley and Potter Valley — both of which suffered heavy losses in the fires responsible for this settlement. Supervisor Ted Williams made a motion, seconded by Supervisor John Haschak, to bring the earmarks back during afternoon session with an additional $250,000 allocated to the operators of the Redwood Valley Grange and a request for proposals from local fire districts on how to equitably spend an additional $1 million.
Cannabis Committee shot down 4-1
There was an agendized discussion of establishing a Standing Cannabis Committee to oversee aspects of the county’s permitting process for cannabis farms, but it was not well received. Multiple supervisors said they’d prefer to let cannabis program manager Kristen Nevadal “do her job” rather than micromanaging those efforts. Supervisor Haschak, who advocated for establishing the committee, argued that without one it would be difficult for three or more supervisors to discuss an issue pertaining to the program without committing a Brown Act violation. Mendocino Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Michael Katz said during public comment there are at least 11 issues that have not yet been addressed in Nevedal’s time with the county, and the board could take action on those. Supervisor Williams, however, stated that the board’s policy is not blocking the application process for Mendocino County growers. Supervisor Glenn McGourty said the cannabis committee is probably a good idea for transparency reasons, but made a motion to dismiss the proposal and table any subsequent discussion on a cannabis committee until at least two supervisors — presumably Haschak and one of his colleagues — are willing to sponsor it. That motion passed 4-1, with Haschak dissenting.
The board went into closed session shortly after that, and presumably took a lunch break at some point. The board resumed open session around 3:25 p.m.