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Butte County Placed On State Monitoring List For COVID-19; Some Businesses Could Close Saturday


Butte County has officially been placed on the state’s list of counties it’s monitoring due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

If the county stays on the list until Friday, some local businesses will have to once again shut down indoor operations.

NSPR’s Andre Byik spoke with Butte County Public Health Director Danette York about what being on the list means and what businesses would be affected.

Here are highlights from their conversation. You can also listen at the top of the page.

Interview Highlights

On being placed on the state’s monitoring list

Yes, we expected it for a while now. We've seen an increase in cases building. And I spoke with the State Department of Health on Monday. They had flagged up on Sunday for the first day of having over 100 cases per 100,000 population over the last 14 days. And so the process is that if you remain flagged for those — any of the metrics — but that one is the one that was specific for us, then they put you on the monitoring list. And so yesterday was the third day we were flagged. Today is the first day we're actually added to the monitoring list. And if a county remains on the monitoring list for three consecutive days, then that triggers us as a county to have to close additional indoor sectors based on the state health officer order that was issued on July 13. 

On which Butte County business would have to close

It's really important to note that it is indoor operations. So if they can and choose to, they can operate outside. So the list includes gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, protests, offices for non-critical infrastructure sectors, personal care services and they include nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors as examples of the personal care services, and then hair salons and barber shops and malls. 

On when those Butte County businesses would have to close

If we are on the monitoring for three consecutive days and we do not see any relief from that — we do anticipate we will be on the monitoring list the rest of the week. Then our third day will be Friday, because today was the first day, so Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, three days. So Saturday is the day that those facilities or sectors need to close indoor operations. 

On how people can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Butte County

We ask people to comply with all guidance that is out there — specifically, wear face coverings when you're in public, in any public building, maintain six feet or more of social distancing. And refrain from going or attending or hosting gatherings of any size. So gatherings for individuals that are outside of your household are still not allowed anywhere in the state. And we do see some of our increasing cases being linked back to such gatherings. Even if it's a private gathering, even if it's family members, if the family members are not in the same household it still should not be held. It's technically not allowed. And it is imperative that if you do have to get together with someone for any reason that you continue using those other mitigations, such as wear your face coverings and remain six feet or more away from one another. 

On sources of outbreaks the county has identified

So there's, we call those congregate living facilities. So anytime there's a group of people that live in one space, there's more likely of a potential for coronavirus to spread if it gets into that facility. So we have had two long-term care facilities or skilled nursing facilities, and the jail does have a current outbreak going. 

We've also seen what we consider outbreaks, again, from gatherings, such as there was a gathering over the Fourth of July weekend that resulted in about 20 cases. And then we also have a small outbreak in a daycare center that resulted from one of the people at that Fourth of July gathering sending a child to daycare. 

On enforcement 

I can't really speak to it because I've not been part of those planning sessions on what the enforcement will look like. I will say that it's not specifically law enforcement, it's more other enforcement. For example, the part that I can speak to is public health staff will be involved in enforcement with any sectors that we permit on an annual basis. For example, food establishments have to get a permit from the local public health department in order to operate annually. And so we do regular inspections with them and we follow up on any complaints that come for food establishments. 

So public health staff will be monitoring complaints regarding non-compliance with state orders such as requiring face coverings for anyone working in an area where food is prepared or served. And we'll be first going out and providing education and making sure that the owners, operators, employees understand what is required of them and asking and trying to learn if there's any resources they need to try to help come into compliance. and I believe that that will be across the board. Education will be first. Trying to help the businesses become compliant and then moving on to other enforcement areas if needed. 

On testing availability in Chico

Our local OptumServe site is in Chico. And it that site was created and is maintained by the state. There is a large desire to get tested now by many people. So they saw an increase in the registrations and appointments being made through their online service. Unfortunately, after many people made their appointments, they didn't show up for them. And so in an effort to try to decrease the number of no shows for appointments, the state has decided to only allow appointments to be made one week in advance. And so if individuals go on the LHI.cares website to try to get an appointment and our local Chico location does not show up, that just means that they're booked for the next week. So I recommend going back in daily and checking to see if they can get an appointment. 

There is also a new OptumServe site that just recently opened in Orland. So that will be one that's fairly close if people can get an appointment there. Again, if it doesn't show up when they try to make an appointment, that just means they're booked for the next week. So it is still operating and it is going to continue operating at least through all of August and then could possibly be extended past that. 

There was a state guidance that came out changing the requirements or the prioritization of who should be tested. I don't know how OptumServe has implemented that or if they have yet, but due to the backlog and the overwhelming of the labs that are running the test, they are trying to prioritize those who are the sickest, are hospitalized with COVID, over those who are asymptomatic.

On what the public can do

I'd like to reiterate one more time that people do their best to follow the guidance, follow all the mitigations in place. If the face coverings, I recognize that they're not fun, and most people do not like wearing them, but do it for yourself, your loved ones and your community. That's the only way we are going to be able to get back open anytime soon. And in addition to the businesses, we also want to consider trying to get our kids to school for in-person learning as much as possible. And we can't do that while we're on the monitoring list. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.