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Nevada County, Calif. April 3, 2020 – The statewide stay at home order went into effect on March 19th, ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed. Trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, laundromats are permitted. Nevada County public schools will remain closed through the end of the school year and switched to distance learning. Yesterday, Nevada County Public Health launched a campaign asking residents to volunteer to Stay Home and Save Lives. Some pushback from the community pointed out volunteering was not the correct term and demanded more stringent rules.

Asking for compliance vs strict enforcement

The #TakeCareofNevadaCounty campaign seems a softer approach to achieving compliance with the order, as opposed to other jurisdictions. It asks residents to commit to:

  • Stay at your residence at all times except as needed for necessities (such as groceries, prescriptions, health care, and exercise that includes social distancing) or to provide an essential service to the community.
  • Limit or avoid contact with anyone outside of your household to help break the chain of infection.
  • Share your commitment to this volunteer opportunity with your friends, family, and community and encourage others to volunteer.
  • Bring your compassion, kindness, and sense of civic duty to this important assignment.

A few days ago, Lakeport Police sent a news release about their first citation for violating the shelter in place order: “A 61 year old Lakeport female was issued a criminal citation for violation of the Shelter-In-Place Order, Health and Safety Code 120295, after being found in public conducting non-essential activities and refusing to comply after admitting knowledge and being advised of it. The subject was also cited for Delaying a Peace Officer and Trespassing, then released on the citation to appear in court at a later date. The Lakeport Police Department urges citizens to continue complying with the order and cooperating with law enforcement officers if contacted.”

But is it working?

A drive through Grass Valley or Nevada City, or a look at the Caltrans traffic cams still shows a steady stream of cars. Are all these vehicles occupied by essential workers or residents making a rare trip to the store? Likely not. Humans are social creatures and physical distancing over extended periods of time goes against nature. However, weighing the necessity of flattening the curve by staying home against meeting up with friends or family, should not be hard.

New measures are being rolled out. Guidance on wearing cloth face coverings was released two days ago. “The use of cloth face coverings could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by individuals who do not have symptoms and may reinforce physical distancing,” says California Department of Public Health. Hopefully, it also signals to the wearer and others that by protecting yourself you protect others too – namely the essential grocery clerks, healthcare workers and first responders.

Clustering outdoors

Along the Yuba River.
Photo @offgridteacher

On March 29, 2020, California State Parks announced it is temporarily closing vehicle access at all 280 state parks to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). They recommended staying close to home. “This is not the time for a road trip to a destination park or beach.” CHP Grass Valley amplified the closure of local State Parks, namely:

  • South Yuba State Park at Bridgeport and SR-49 (South Fork)
  • SR-49/Independence Trail State Park
  • Empire Mine State Historic Park- Main Lot and Penn Gate
  • Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
  • Donner Memorial State Park

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Reports of cars parked alongside roads to access parks and large crowds of people on trails seem to indicate the guidance is considered “optional” when outdoors. Nothing could be further from reality. Social distancing while walking or hiking is as important as frequently washing your hands. If you cannot maintain physical distancing, leave the park or the trail.

About those burn piles

Nevada County has an overabundance of fuels and the cost for green waste removal remains a significant obstacle for property owners when it comes to fuels reduction. As you are staying home, fuels reduction on your property is a great way to exercise, get ready for the upcoming fire season and harden the home. To dispose of the downed limbs and brush, many resort to burn piles. Burning safely is an art onto itself, with enough bare dirt clearance around your pile and a water supply at hand. Burning hot and clean, between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm on a permissible burn day is recommended.

Respiratory impacts on the property owner and neighbors might need to be taken into consideration by all of us. Impacts on our first responders, if the burn escapes, are an added concern. Chipping, mulching or green waste disposal events are alternatives to burning, because exposing your lungs to irritation by smoke does not seem like a good idea in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

“Air pollution increases risk of hospitalization for respiratory infection and has been linked to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the cause of respiratory failure and death due to coronavirus,” said ATS spokesperson, Mary Rice, MD. “In the midst of the COVID outbreak – which is a respiratory health crisis – we urge all parts of society to respect good lung health practices, including social distancing and meeting EPA environmental standards,” added Dr. Rice, who is chair of the American Thoracic Society Environmental Health Policy Committee.

Be selfish, protect yourself

Practice strict social distancing, wear cloth masks and severely restrict non-essential travel. Do it for yourself, your family and friends.

PS: Wash your hands!