On Tuesday, November 10, the California Department of Public Health placed Amador County back in the red, or Substantial, tier per its Activity and Business Tiers. I talked with Diana Evensen, the public information officer for the Amador County Public Health Department (ACPHD), as well as Jamie Armstrong, CEO of the Amador County Chamber of Commerce, about what the red tier means for businesses in the county as we near the height of the holiday season.

Amador County has seen a significant uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with the ACPHD reporting 36 active cases with 4 residents hospitalized as of its most recent report on November 13. During the height of COVID-19 activity in the county during the summer, the number of active cases was around 50 per week for several weeks. Cases dropped dramatically as summer turned to autumn, and the county dropped to the moderate, or orange, tier at the end of September.

Recent weeks have seen a significant spike in cases elsewhere in the United States, especially in the Midwest, but cases in California have only started to rise since late October. This is not surprising due to people gathering for Halloween festivities, and the ACPHD has attributed the growth in county cases to family gatherings, household transmission, employee transmission, and out-of-state travel.

Changes You’ll Notice

Amador County Health and Human ServicesCounty businesses needed to make adjustments to their operations no later than the close of business on November 13, and there are changes to some businesses in the red tier:

  • All retail businesses, except for standalone grocery stores, must reduce their capacity to 50 percent. Retailers can learn more about retail guidelines on the state COVID-19 Retail Industry Guidance document.
  • Movie theaters must reduce their maximum capacity to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Gyms must reduce their indoor capacity to 10 percent.
  • Restaurants must reduce their indoor capacity to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Wineries can only operate outdoors.
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries must close.
  • Offices must have their employees work remotely only.

You can view more information on state websites about activities and business tiers as well as from the Blueprint for a Safer Economy webpage that, Armstrong said, “gives more information about how counties move up and down within the tier structure and can answer a lot of questions people may have.”

Stay Safe Out There

Armstrong said that the Chamber has only received a handful of calls about county businesses moving back to the red tier. “I think it has become a little less chaotic on businesses since now the Governor is allowing businesses three days to prepare for the new restrictions,” she said.

The Chamber will continue to offer free PPE to county businesses and non-profit events until supplies run out. These supplies include disposable masks in packs of 50, 16-ounce pump hand sanitizer, and a limited supply of face shields. Armstrong said that businesses should send an e-mail message to the Chamber to arrange to pick up these supplies.

Evensen’s advice for the holiday season is simple: “Wear masks and limit number of people so physical distancing can be maintained.” Armstrong added that it not only is important to shop in small groups, but “it is also extremely important that people are wearing their masks covering both their mouth and nose and hand sanitize often.”

The tier change has also affected community amenities and holiday events. For example, the Amador County Museum has closed until further notice. The movement into the red tier also prompted the cancellation of the Christmas Parade in Ione and the Parade of Lights in Sutter Creek. Jackson continues to plan for its scaled-back Christmas Delights event on November 27.

Armstrong also pointed out that Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday are still happening in the county, and you can view the list of participating businesses on the Chamber website. Some county businesses, Armstrong added, are accommodating their customers by offering porch drop-off services and close their businesses for one-on-one shopping experiences.

With all these options, she concluded, “I think everyone in the county should take a pledge to do their holiday shopping at our local businesses. There is something for everyone on your Christmas list here in Amador County.”

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