SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – A controversial plan to fine businesses for violating COVID-19 restrictions in Sacramento County is no longer being considered after the county health director decided to pull an urgency ordinance from consideration by the Board of Supervisors.
They now intend to come up with a new proposal that instead targets large gatherings.
The decision comes after protesters stormed into the Board of Supervisors meeting where the proposal was up for debate.
Meetings are not open to the public amid pandemic safety restrictions.
“People have been calling in for months, calls get dropped. Our voices aren’t heard,” protester Gabrielle Ingram said.
Ingram said she decided to show up in person, demanding to be let in after learning of the new urgency ordinance up for consideration.
It would allow county health officials to impose fines for violating COVID-19 restrictions: up to $500 for non-commercial violators and up to $10,000 for businesses.
Ingram claimed her family business can’t afford to comply with orders.
“My husband’s up until 3 a.m. trying to start a new business that’s not dependent on brick and mortar so we can continue to pay the bills,” Ingram told FOX40. “His mental health is affected. I’m doing anything I can to help.”
Other protesters cited untrue conspiracy theories for why they don’t agree with enforcement, with some falsely claiming that COVID-19 is not real.
“I have a right to say I don’t believe in coronavirus. This is America. We’re not in communist Russia,” said protester Jorge Riley.
Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson says the ordinance was meant to give the county another avenue to try to gain cooperation from businesses in an effort to keep the community safe as case numbers and hospitalizations soar.
“There was only going to be enforcement for egregious offenders,” Dr. Beilenson explained.
He ultimately decided to pull the item from consideration before the board voted.
“Well, there’s a couple of reasons. First of all, the board of supervisors clearly wasn’t going to support it. Secondly, what we really want to hit is the gatherings that are being done unsafely,” Dr. Beilenson said.
He says large gatherings have been a major source of spread in the community and they plan to come back with a plan to specifically target these types of events, adding that he believes the health department does not have enough staffing to enforce fines on businesses.
“We have 1.5 million people in Sacramento County. There’s absolutely no way we could enforce those rules. We’ve got to rely on them doing the right thing,” Dr. Beilenson explained.
Beilenson says the protesters had no impact on his decision to pull the ordinance.