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Inyo County and the City of Bishop officials want more “local determination” in restrictions as applied to local businesses

Both the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and Bishop City Council are trying very hard to regain some local control over COVID-19 restrictions.

Just a few weeks ago, there was a glimmer of hope as cases stabilized state-wide. But case numbers ratcheted up dramatically and Governor Gavin Newsom reversed his decision to roll-back restrictions. So, we’re back where we were a less than a month ago. The Board and City Council are hoping Newsom’s commitment to “local determination” can be applied to local businesses in Inyo.

The first move, Tuesday, was a resolution by the Supervisors to ease the process for local shops and particularly restaurants to conduct business outdoors. Normally, a Conditional Use Permit would be required, but with the unanimous approval of the Board, restaurants can set up eating areas outdoors on property owned by the business or with the permission of the landowner.

County Counsel Marshall Rudolph’s explanation: the enforcing codes are discretionary, to an extent. There is no change in the regulations, we’re just choosing to exercise our discretion.”

On Thursday, the Board approved a request to the California Departments of Public Health and Health & Human Services to allow Inyo County to exercise its local determination over business openings and closures. Bishop City Council also met Thursday morning to approve a similar letter to Newsom and State Senator Andreas Borgeas.

“We want to use our own metrics to determine what we do,” was Inyo’s HHS Director Marilyn Mann’s explanation. One of the metrics Inyo identified during the attestation process was five unrelated cases in a week would generate a pause in the County’s opening procedures. That number, in essence, would indicate a broader community spread.

While the number of cases has risen to 41 (now 42, as of July 23), that specific metric has not been reached. In addition, staff maintained there is an increase in compliance with required masks and social distancing. The County is logging complaints and reaching out to businesses. “There are civil or criminal options,” said Meagan McCamman, HHS’s assistant director, “though we don’t want to go down that path.”

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