Hours before Gov. Gavin Newsom called for the closure of bars, nightclubs and wineries throughout California in response to the spread of COVID-19, Sonoma County’s top elected official said that grappling with the economic fallout of the crisis is the “next step” after coping with the public health impacts of the virus.
Asked at Sunday, March 15 press conference whether the county will implement a temporary ban on evictions, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin said that “many community members” have made the request.
“People are extremely nervous about what loss of income may mean. Will they be evicted from their apartments? [But] there is two-way street, of course. The landlords would then say, ‘What happens if I lose my income and I might potentially lose that house?'” Gorin said, adding that Newsom has been asked to consider a similar ban at the state level.
“As in other disasters, we are going to be carefully monitoring the economic impact [of COVID-19]. [The] potential job loss, the need for benefit enhancement and eligibility services out there in the community,” Gorin continued. “I think that’s the next step. The first step is really evaluating what is happening from a public health perspective and then evaluating how the impact will be felt throughout all of our community.”
Some California cities, including San Jose and Sacramento are already considering temporary bans on evictions when a tenant can prove they are unable to pay rent due to lost wages caused by the COVID-19.
On Friday, March 13, San Francisco Mayor London Breed implemented legislation which will bar landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay rent due to lost income because of a business closure, lost work hours, layoffs or out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19.
State Senator Scott Weiner and Assemblymember Phil Ting are reportedly working on legislation to do the same thing at a state level.
[UPDATE: On Monday, March 16, Newsom issued an executive order which “authorizes local governments to halt evictions for renters and homeowners, slows foreclosures, and protects against utility shutoffs for Californians affected by COVID-19.” Crucially, the order does not halt evictions but allows cities and counties to do so. The full order is available here.]
Later on Sunday, March 15, Newsom called for the closure of bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries throughout the state. He also recommended that individuals older than 65 years old isolate themselves.
The Sonoma County press conference was scheduled following an announcement on Saturday, March 14, that health officials had identified a patient who had caught the virus within the community, not while traveling.
“A Rohnert Park Health Center employee has tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The employee is in self-quarantine. The Health Center is identifying and notifying anyone who might have come in close contact with them, including patients and staff,” according to a March 15 press release from the Rohnert Park Mayor Joe Callinan.
“Another individual associated with the patient has Coronavirus test results that are pending; this person is also self-quarantined and without symptoms,” Callinan continued.
At the March 15 press conference, county officials repeated prior recommendations to reduce and slow the spread of the virus. Those recommendations include maintaining distance from other people, regularly washing hands and avoiding non-mandatory gatherings, especially large ones.
More information on Sonoma County’s response to COVID-19 is available at socoemergency.org.
County officials will participate in two informational radio programs on Tuesday, March 17.
A Spanish language program will be streamed at 5pm on KBBF, 89.1 FM in Santa Rosa.
An English language program will be stream at 7pm on KRCB, 91.1 FM in Santa Rosa.