UKIAH, 3/4/23 — The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday ending the local health emergency due to Covid-19 that was declared nearly three years earlier on March 4, 2020. During that time a total of 143 county residents died as a result of the pandemic, according to Public Health Officer Andy Coren.
“When I first started back in June 2020,” Coren said while addressing the board, “we were having only five per day, and that was several months after the emergency order was passed. By December 2020 we exceeded 35 cases per day and in February 2021, which was the peak, we were seeing over 200 cases per day. Now we’re done to 3.9 cases per day.”
Hospitalizations are also down, he added.
“We all paid a high, but necessary, price,” Coren said. “At this point, the county’s emergency orders are no longer needed, and they should be withdrawn.”
The local emergency was first enacted by former Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan March 4, 2020. Doohan’s declaration was ratified by the Board of Supervisors March 10 of that year. The first local case of Covid-19 was confirmed eight days later on March 18 — at which time a public health order was issued directing residents to shelter in place.
In a regulatory sense, the end of the local emergency will mean that individual supervisors have to return to meeting in-person in order to establish a quorum under the Brown Act, which governs open meetings. In the event of a medical, family or “physical” emergency (such as a road closure) supervisors will be able to submit a remote attendance request for approval by the full board. Members of the public, however, will still be able to attend and enter public comment via video-conferencing.
“We’re at the end of one of the most challenging times in Mendocino County history,” 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty remarked. “It was very trying on our community, especially for schools, small businesses and many people who felt isolated and fearful.”
Supervisor Ted Williams made the motion, Supervisor Maureen Mulheren seconded, and supervisors John Haschak, Dan Gjerde and McGourty voted in the affirmative. No comment was received from the public.
SNAP program loses funding
The board’s motion came in conjunction with a similar move by Gov. Gavin Newsom terminating a statewide state of emergency the same day. That is also going to have a number of local impacts, starting with the loss of $18 million in retail grocery spending from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP).
Mendocino County Social Services Director Bekki Emery told the board that the number of local households receiving SNAP benefits increased roughly 50 percent since Dec. 2019, from 6,625 to 9,901. Benefits disbursed also increased during that time from roughly $17.6 million annually to $48.1 million per year — starting with a minimum increase of $95 per household in March, 2020. That increase is now being discontinued, which is expected to have significant impacts on food security for local families.
“This change will push for more need within our community to access food banks, match funds at farmers markets and other food access points such as senior centers and Plowshares,” Emery said.
The end of California’s Covid-19 state of emergency will also require the reinstatement of regulations regarding in-person meetings with social services clients. Disenrollments from Medi-Cal, which were blocked by Medicaid’s “continuous coverage” requirement as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, are set to resume by July. Emery said more than 40,000 people are enrolled in Medi-Cal countywide, and some of them will need to file for renewal.
This resolution was the last agenda item discussed during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors before adjournment. Interested parties can find the meeting agenda and video recording on the county’s website as well as on the county’s YouTube channel.