California Counties Rise to the Challenge of COVID-19
Disasters have come in many forms over the past couple of years. After adjusting to the unprecedented events of devastating wildfires and public safety power shutoffs, California’s Counties are now rising to the occasion of a worldwide public health emergency with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
An unintended, positive consequence of the investment in emergency services following the wildfires has allowed California Counties to respond to the current public health emergency quickly through a strong partnership with the state. These investments are paying dividends in the health and safety of our local communities and county family. I am tremendously proud of the work going on at the local level; and as your Association, we are working hard to match your work and support your efforts every step of the way. Our staff and the Officers are working around the clock to represent County interests at the state and federal levels to ensure you have the tools, flexibility and resources needed to protect the health and safety of your communities.
As of this writing, 54 California counties have declared COVID-19 related health emergencies. Fifteen Counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma and Yolo) have also issued a “Shelter in Place” or extreme social distancing notice to all residents, and Ventura County has issued the same, but only for adults over 75.
As an Association, we’ve been engaging our Officers with the Governor’s office, CalOES, Department of Public Health and key partners to develop a strategic series of requests that preserve the local authority and flexibility for counties while outlining the resources and support needed to keep operations moving forward. Our Officers, county counsels, county administrators and CSAC staff have worked to summarize the needs and concerns of counties into a joint letter with the County Health Executives Association, Brown Act requests, local government workforce needs and continuity of operations letters to share those needs with the Governor and Legislature, and obtain urgent relief. By every indication, our county voice is being heard.
Meanwhile, CSAC has been hard at work keeping our members informed and sharing resources. We’ve been sending out daily update emails to Supervisors, CAOs/CEOs and Legislative Coordinators, added a COVID-19 webpage to our website with daily updates, developed a communication-specific webpage for county Public Information Officers, coordinated numerous calls with key state and federal leaders, and more.
While CSAC is working to provide information on every available dollar, program, and resource, we want to echo National Association of Counties (NACo) Executive Director Matt Chase, who had three pieces of advice for all counties: Document, document, document. In other words, capturing the costs of the time, effort, expertise, and equipment that is being marshalled to meet this unprecedented public health threat is critical. All federal programs require documentation for reimbursement, and many state and nonprofit dollars will require the same.
CSAC is here to be a resource for counties. Please keep us apprised of your situation and needs, so we can document local efforts and advocate to address needs to state and federal leaders. If we can provide any assistance, please let us know. We will be sure to connect your county with all expertise and resources at our fingertips.
It is times like this, when we are immersed in uncertainty and ever-changing conditions, that we must remind ourselves to take a breath, periodically pause to see the big picture and model calm, clear and decisive leadership to guide our communities. Thank you for your incredible dedication to your community and to California’s Counties. Be safe.