Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Here we go again: Mask order in place, not enforced 

Despite an order from the Colusa County Public Health Officer to wear face coverings indoors, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday did not change course from their 2020 resolution to not enforce mask mandates. (Susan Meeker / Pioneer Review)

The Colusa County Public Health Officer has ordered Colusa County citizens to wear masks indoors – whether they are vaccinated or not. 

Colusa County Public Health Officer Gregory Burt MD announced a facial covering mandate for all indoor public settings on Friday, following an increase in local COVID-19 cases over the past week and a jump in cases statewide. 

The order went into effect on Tuesday, but officials at the highest level of local government said they would not enforce the mandate. 

” I couldnt have been more dismayed,” said Colusa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Evans, who said just two weeks ago the countys formal action on May 27, 2020, to abstain from enforcing any order that infringes upon a citizens constitutional rights has not changed. 

On Friday, when Burt issued the mask order, Colusa County had 2,459 total positive cases of COVID-19 to date with 44 new cases over a 7-day period. 

One person was hospitalized and 18 people, mostly elderly or with multiple underlying conditions, died in the early months of the pandemic. 

On Monday, those 7-day numbers of positive COVID-19 cases were up, according to Elizabeth Kelly, director of Health and Human Services. The total number of persons who tested positive was at 2,565, an increase of 106 from Aug. 9, with 95 people in isolation, up from 66 the week prior. As of Monday there were six people in the hospital, up two from Aug. 9. The death count remains at 18, Kelly said. 

No surrounding counties have implemented a mask mandate, although guidance was given by state officials to wear masks indoors. Several counties in the North State have only recommended fully vaccinated people wear a mask in indoor settings if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated. 

While the county previously said they would not enforce Dr. Burts orders, the county is required by state law to have a Public Health Officer. 

Burts mask mandate, which went into effect on the same day as his performance evaluation, drew the ire from other local officials. 

Colusa County Superintendent of Schools Mike West, who is also a Colusa businesses owner, said he received numerous calls since Burt issued the order from parents who were confused, scared, or concerned because Colusa County and local schools previously indicated the decision to wear masks would be left up to parents to decide what is best for their children. 

” All of us in education seriously are very excited about school starting and getting back to some semblance of normalcy,” West said. ” We also appreciate the support (the county) has shown us with the resolution (supervisors) passed recently in support of parental choice. 

But West said he was disappointed by Burts interference because the people elected the Board of Supervisors to govern the people of Colusa County, not an absentee physician from out of the area. 

” We did not elect a public health officer who does not live in our county, doesnt work in our county, and, to my knowledge, hasnt been to a single meeting since this pandemic has started because he is too busy with his patients. Its quite frustrating. 

West said the county should make it clear that the 22,000 people living and working in Colusa County are also Burts patients, and that the doctor should meet with the public to explain how and why he casts decisions from afar. 

” If this heavy-handed brown boot-type activity continues and we close our businesses again in this county, they will not recover at all,” West added. 

Colusa Unified School District board member Melissa Yerxa Ortiz also voiced displeasure at the order. 

Ortiz said the school districts in Colusa County have been working collaboratively with the Public Health department to develop workable plans for students to safely return to school that respect employees and district families, only to have their plans completely disregarded by the Public Health Officer, who seems to be disconnected from public health staff and the community. 

” As an employee who is compensated very handsomely for his services to this county, it is my opinion that we are not being served or represented by Dr. Burt,” Ortiz added. ” As a school district, we havent received a single contact from Dr. Burt, aside from the edicts he issues from afar since the pandemic began. That level of employee commitment and engagement isnt acceptable to me as a school board member, as a taxpayer, or as a local resident. We have too many people working in this county for the benefit of this county to overlook the counterproductive efforts of Dr. Burt. 

According to Dr. Burts order, Colusa County has seen a steady rise in COVID-19 cases, including breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals, although specific information was not released by Colusa County Health officials. 

In neighboring Glenn County, Public Health officials said two people tested positive for the Delta variant in July. One was an individual in their 30s whose vaccination status was unknown; the other was in their 40s and had not been vaccinated. 

Colusa County has not reported whether the positive cases of COVID-19 are the Delta variant, or whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals. 

The county did report that as of Monday, 65 percent of people aged 65 and older had at least one dose of vaccine, and 58 percent were fully vaccinated. 

About 53 percent of those ages 50-64 have been fully vaccinated; 43 percent of those ages 20-49 are fully vaccinated; 22 percent of those ages 16-19 are fully vaccinated, and 6 percent for those ages 12-15 are fully vaccinated. – 

Susan Meeker
Editor and Reporter of the Pioneer Review, Susan has had decades of experience reporting news in Colusa County. To contact Susan, email or call (530) 458-4141 Ext. 103

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