The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is contemplating fining those who don’t follow safety protocols regarding the spread of the coronavirus during the ongoing pandemic.

County health officials are expected to ask for the Board’s approval of an “urgency ordinance” during a meeting next month. While officials Dr. Olivia Kasirye and Dr. Peter Beilenson are still fleshing out the ordinance, there was discussion of the matter during their regular COVID-19 update to the Board this week.

Dr. Beilenson says he’s received hundreds of complaints about “bad actors” who aren’t following current guidelines for the prevention of spreading the virus. While the public health department has been touting the importance of following safety protocol since March, to date, enforcement has largely been non-existent.

During a public comment segment, callers urged officials to reevaluate the use of punitive measures such as fines and citations as a means for getting COVID-19 under control. Many were restaurant owners like Sam Manolakas, whose family has operated three local Brookfield restaurants for 40 years.

“These restaurant closures are causing great financial devastation for restaurateurs and the tens of thousands of workers in the hospitality industry,” Manolakas said. “We believe that the restaurant industry is essential and we are asking that the County Supervisors and the County of Sacramento defy the governor’s order of closing down the restaurants.”
Manolakas has joined a group of owners in pursuing a lawsuit against the state, to recoup losses suffered during the pandemic. Statistical data, he says, doesn’t support closure of their businesses.

Dr. Beilenson said the food industry counts for only 7.1 percent of the County’s positive tests. He’s met with the restaurant community weekly, he said, and recently suggested that stakeholders take to the streets in an act of civil disobedience to show their frustration at being singled out. The suggestion was met with laughter by members of the Board, but Dr. Beilenson said he was quite serious.

Discussion of possible fines for non-compliance comes as Sacramento County and 40 others have dropped back down to the most restrictive tier in the state’s COVID-19 governing system. As a rise in cases has swept across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom has been considering various re-closures and even discussed a possible curfew, with all businesses having to shut down at 10:00 p.m. nightly.

Supervisors expressed that their hands are tied at the County level, having to follow state mandates.

While health officials are still ironing out the logistics of the ordinance and looking to other counties for best practices, Dr. Kasirye said in the interim, they’ll continue to champion the message of social distancing, the wearing of face masks and urging locals to refrain from large gatherings going into the holidays.

Dr. Beilenson said its important for locals to remain diligent and they can expect to return to a “greater normalcy” next year with the widespread availability of a vaccine, “if we can just make it through one more period of time.”

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer