As the threat of novel virus COVID-19 continues to shadow the nation, Oakdale City Council members held their first teleconference council meeting, Monday, April 6, adopting an urgency ordinance that supports Governor Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order.
With minor adjustments to the language, the council passed the ordinance 4-0 with Councilmember Rich Murdoch not present.
City Attorney Tom Hallinan stated, “There’s an urgency to slow the transmission of COVID-19,” as he introduced the ordinance for Council’s consideration.
The ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, provides enforcement options for local law enforcement and city administration as the city moves forward in this new and challenging environment.
City Manager Bryan Whitemyer was quick to stress, “Our desire is not to criminalize or make people’s lives more difficult than they already are,” but all efforts are geared toward flattening the curve and saving lives. Whitemyer also stated, COVID-19 accommodations at the city level have been “all-consuming” as they try to navigate this new challenge, which includes daily disinfecting, closing offices to the public, and trying to operate the city with new safety restrictions.
According to city documents, the ordinance will provide the City with an enforcement mechanism, including administrative penalties and fines for violations of the ordinance. When enforced through an administrative citation, the fines for violating the ordinance will be $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation, and $1,000 for a third and any subsequent violations.
The ordinance also states people are prohibited from using park and playground equipment but residents are encouraged to responsibly use the “green spaces” while practicing social distancing protocols.
Councilmember Christopher Smith echoed a sentiment expressed by Councilmember Ericka Chiara, saying, “A couple of people standing in their driveway several feet apart is not breaking this law. It’s the barbeque parties that we’re concerned with and anybody who goes to a grocery store, we don’t need your whole family in your car if it’s not absolutely necessary.”
Police Chief Scott Heller said the police department has adopted an “education” stance when it comes to addressing people who aren’t observing the proper protocols and thus far, it’s been going well.
“We’ve had a very high level of cooperation,” Heller said.
The State Public Health Officer issued an “Essential List of Critical Infrastructure Workers,” which provides an exemption to the Executive Order and the County March 31 order.
According to the Stanislaus County Public Health Officer, the number of cases continues to rise. Gaining accurate numbers is difficult as the numbers change rapidly. As of press time, the documented number of cases in Stanislaus County stood at 81 with zero reported deaths.
Oakdale has between one and four cases of COVID-19. Due to the population size being less than 25,000 people, the exact number will not be released until documented infections surpasses five.
Mayor J.R. McCarty expressed frustration at being unable to have access to Oakdale’s true number but at this time, not much can be done to change the protocol.
McCarty stressed that accurate information was key in this situation. “Get your information from a reliable source,” he said, such as the CDC, WHO, and www.stanemergency.com.
There is also an email address where people can report businesses operating in defiance of the Shelter-In-Place directive. As a reminder, essential businesses, as listed on the public order issued by the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency are exempt.
To report a suspected non-compliant business, email to: Hasfirstname.lastname@example.org.