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Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez. File photo

published on December 22, 2020 - 4:54 PM
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The City of Fresno could see more restrictions placed on retail stores with a new emergency order that is being considered.

Councilmember Luis Chavez is considering proposing an emergency order that would limit retail businesses to curbside pick-up only should Fresno County’s ICU bed capacity drop to zero.

A proposed draft of the order states that if the ICU beds in Fresno County go down to zero, “all retail businesses throughout the City, shall completely shut down and be closed, without exception, for all in-person sales and services for a period of five consecutive days.”

The draft also states that violations of the emergency orders can be subject a $1,000 fine for the first offense, $5,000 for the second offense, and $10,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.

If the ICU bed capacity doesn’t improve the “Emergency Shut Down shall be extended for an additional five day period.”

Chavez said the reason for considering the emergency order comes from the “explosion” of Covid-19 infections—13,000 in the last seven days for the Fresno area. A report from Community Regional Medical Center states that adjacent region’s overflow areas are already full, and 700 health care workers are either off work with Covid-19 or in quarantine because of exposure, he said.

“That really prompted us to have discussions of ‘what is the worst case scenario and what could the city do to reduce the number of new infections,’ and this is one of the ideas that we’ve been discussing on what that would look like.”

Chavez said that there have been discussions with local small businesses and the Fresno Chamber of Commerce in drafting the order, as some businesses might not have the infrastructure to accommodate curbside pick-up.

The language in the emergency order still needs to be finalized, but Chavez said there are talks of allowing small businesses to have designated hours to allow customers for in-store sales.

Though Chavez did say the number of days — five — for restrictions was “arbitrary,” the purpose of the five-day pause is to minimize infections and give the local health care system “breathing room” and some “flexibility for regrouping and being able to repurpose some of their resources.”

Chavez said local health officials believe gatherings for the Thanksgiving holiday led to a surge in infection rates. He hopes to mitigate a similar situation for after the Christmas holiday.

“I want the community to know what I know and flag this option for reducing the number of infections,” Chavez said.

The temporary shutdown would include big box stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and grocery stores as well.

Chavez said that the final ordinance would also include the closure of offices, especially for ones that have the capability to have employees work from home.

Chavez said he is in talks with officials from the Fresno County Health Department who expect ICU capacity to drop to zero in the next seven to ten days, which will trigger the process to vote on the ordinance.

The language of the final ordinance will determine whether it gets passed by the city council, Chavez said, with some of his colleagues feeling the ordinance in its current language doesn’t go far enough, while others think that nothing should be done.

City Council President Miguel Arias said in press release that the city council is monitoring the worsening conditions in local hospitals and Chavez’s proposal.

“We are prepared to take actions necessary to protect our community and preserve our health care system at a moment’s notice this holiday season. We continue to ask residents to do their part,” Arias said in the press release. 

As a small business owner himself, Chavez said he understands what the business community is going through and wants to work with them on a solution.

“Right now people aren’t shopping as much as they would because of fear of the virus. The sooner we can get through this, the sooner we can get back to normal,” he said.

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