Paso clarifies COVID-19 restrictions and enforcement



The Paso Robles City Council danced around saying it wouldn't enforce recently implemented state stay-at-home orders for nearly an hour at its Dec. 15 council meeting—until it did, stating it would continue observing purple tier restrictions.

LEADER The city of Paso Robles is enforcing purple tier restrictions only as it continues to lead the county's positive COVID-19 cases with more than 1,800 since March. - IMAGE COURTESY OF READYSLO.ORG
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  • LEADER The city of Paso Robles is enforcing purple tier restrictions only as it continues to lead the county's positive COVID-19 cases with more than 1,800 since March.

However, the city made it clear that businesses (mainly restaurants) that knowingly don't comply with the regional stay-at-home order are at risk of enforcement from county and state agencies. The state determines those restrictions, City Manager Tom Frutchey said during the meeting. The city can't do that.

If an individual or business holds a license or permit from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for example, and violates regional stay-at-home orders, they are subject to that state agency's enforcement.

"So what the council talked about last Thursday, wishing it could have the ability to say that. The state has determined we are not in the purple tier," Frutchey said.

With that clarification, the council unanimously affirmed its Dec. 10 direction to city staff that it will not enforce restrictions beyond the state's purple tier guidelines. That means the city will continue working with businesses on compliance through education via the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce and leave the responsibility of categorizing who is an egregious or flagrant violator to the county Public Health Department.

The council may reconsider its direction, if SLO County's ICU capacity falls below 15 percent—similar to the criteria used by Gov. Gavin Newsom to implement the regional stay-at-home order.

Mayor Steve Martin said the council's Dec. 10 and 15 actions were an effort to provide a system that is equitable, transparent, and consistent—something the community can easily understand.

"And something that doesn't change quickly. Now, obviously in a situation like the pandemic, things can happen quickly. There's no way to legislate a virus. If it comes on strong we've got to be nimble, and we've got to change," Martin said.

Frutchey said Newsom's direction to state agencies is "strategic targeted enforcement actions with the goal of adjusting behavior, interrupting high-risk actions and defiances of public health orders and restoring compliance." He said that county code enforcement will serve as a backup for the city.

"The county has no intention of enforcing any violation of the public health restrictions of the [city of Paso Robles] other than those related to restaurants and food service," Frutchey said.

SLO County issued a clarification on outdoor dining restrictions and decided to allow customers to consume takeout meals outdoors at restaurants with outdoor seating. The restaurant must not provide table service, is still required to sanitize tables, and needs to ensure seating is far enough apart to comply with safety guidelines. Customers must abide by social-distancing guidelines and not gather. Whether a city decides to allow customers to eat takeout at parklets is up to each city.

The council also supported Frutchey and Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis in creating enforcement protocols for egregious violations. An egregious violation is defined as conspicuous, flagrant, intentional, unashamed, and serious.

The process would involve outreach and education in collaboration with the chamber, potential administrative citations, and an appeal process to include community members appointed by the city manager. Δ


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