Each County Should Have Autonomy in COVID Response, Says NFIB Director

December 7, 2020 Updated: December 7, 2020

California’s individual counties should have more autonomy in responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, says a small business advocate.

“There’s a better way to do this,” John Kabateck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), told The Epoch Times. “The swift closure of businesses in all parts of the state is irrational, devastating, and unnecessary.”

Orange County and the rest of Southern California fell under sweeping new health restrictions as of 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 6 due to the rapidly increasing number of hospitalizations from COVID-19. The new stay-at-home order will last at least three weeks, and prompted the closure of numerous small businesses.

Hair salons, playgrounds, entertainment centers, wineries, and bars are among the shops that must close. Retail stores will be limited to 20 percent capacity, and Orange County restaurants can offer takeout only.

Under the state’s new lockdown protocol, Orange County is part of the Southern California region encompassing 11 counties. But rather than lump all Southern California counties into the same region, the state should have allowed each county to develop its own COVID-19 response plan, Kabateck said.

“We still believe that as much as we need to fix it on a statewide level, our leaders ought to be deferring to the counties to determine what’s working best for them [and let] the counties determine what’s in their best interest,” Kabateck said.

“Don’t not create a sweeping, broad brushstroke that’s going to devastate Main Street everywhere.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the impending stay-at-home order, determined by intensive care unit (ICU) bed availability within specified California regions, on Dec. 3.

“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed. We’ll continue to see the death rate climb, more lives lost,” Newsom said.

Kabateck said before announcing the lockdown that the state also should have consulted with members of the small business community, as well as industry experts.

“They should have had more in-depth surgical discussions with industry leaders to understand the protocols and processes so they can address them on an industry-by-industry basis,” Kabateck said.

“We hope and pray that the shutdown will be brief. And that vaccines will come. And that we can get Main Street working again, the industry running again, people back to work, and families feeling more certain about their future.”

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said that while she recognizes concerns about diminishing levels of ICU capacity, she was troubled by the way the state lumped every Southern California county into a single region.

“I think it would be more productive to have smaller regions,” Bartlett told The Epoch Times. “We can control things to some extent in our county; we’ve got 10 other counties and we don’t know what they’re doing.”

While Bartlett said she normally advocates for local control, she said it makes sense to view COVID-19 cases as regional, given the number of Southern Californians traveling throughout county borders.

“We are a job center, and we employ a lot of workers in Orange County that come from our neighboring counties [such as] San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, and Los Angeles. And then people travel back and forth for recreation,” she said.

“I understand the need for the regions, but I think the way the regions are set up through the stay-at-home order, the regions are just way too big, at least the Southern California region is just way too large, and it should be broken up into more manageable chapters.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency on Dec. 6 reported 2,025 new cases of COVID-19, with 15 deaths. A total of 848 people—including 209 people in ICU—were hospitalized.

COVID-related ICU admissions have grown by 67 percent across California in recent weeks, Newsom said during the Dec. 3 press briefing.

California’s acting public health officer Dr. Erica Pan said the shutdown is necessary.

“Staying home for three weeks is a sacrifice, but if every Californian did that for a month, we could stop this disease in its tracks,” Pan said in a press release.

“This public health order strikes the balance between saving lives, providing essential services that we all rely on, and still allowing Californians to participate in lower-risk outdoor activities that are crucial for our physical and mental health.”

Other regions include: Northern California, the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, and San Joaquin Valley.

Follow Michelle on Twitter: @EpochMichelle