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May 24, 2022
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City of Healdsburg ratifies emergency declaration for COVID-19

In a unanimous vote Monday evening, March 16, Healdsburg City Council ratified the city’s emergency declaration in relation to COVID-19. An emergency declaration allows the city to have access to mutual aid and other resources.

“What it really does is it allows us to respond effectively to COVID-19, (to get) mutual aid, potentially obtain reimbursement, and ensure that all of the city of Healdsburg staff have the tools necessary to respond,” Healdsburg City Manager David Mickaelian said during the meeting.

The city also announced in conjunction with the city of Santa Rosa and the county of Sonoma, that it too would be significantly scaling back its non-essential services, March 17 through April 5, in an effort to reduce the risk of potential community spread of the novel coronavirus.

The scale-back in non-essential services includes the closure of city hall, the community center, the senior center and all other city facilities.

In addition, the city has suspended all recreation programs, classes and events at city facilities through April 5 and canceled its planning, parks and recreation and senior citizen advisory commission meetings from March 17 to April 3.

“This is very fluid, there are lots of things happening,” Mickaelian said, noting that the timeline for city hall and city facility closures could be extended.

“The next council meeting is April 6 and I would anticipate having to utilize the new Brown Act powers that Gov. Newsom authorized by having most of you call in. I believe one council member has to be in for the meeting and we have to allow for public comment,” Mickaelian said.

With that said he added, “It is our goal to maintain essential services, keeping our residents and our staff safe, but we want to respect whatever order the governor or the county provides.”

Vital services that will continue to be provided include law enforcement, fire services, electric services, water and wastewater services, building inspections and public communication.

During the meeting, Mickaelian also addressed the likely shelter in place order. 

“And as you also probably saw today, six counties including Marin basically shut everything down today — a shelter in place, and I foresee that happening in the next day or so in Sonoma County as well,” he said.

Healdsburg Police Chief Kevin Burke reiterated Mickaelian’s assertion and said all of the county police chiefs met to discuss the scenario and are prepared.

“It is imminent that that order (to shelter in place) gets extended to Sonoma County. And I think we are ready for it,” Burke said.

Councilmember David Hagele asked what the city would look like a week from now in town once shelter in place is in effect.

“Well there are a lot of exceptions to the shelter in place orders. I have been looking at the versions that we’ve had in the Bay Area today and there are a number of exceptions, some of them are even to get outside in unpopulated, uncongested areas to get fresh air and those kinds of things. There will still be people out, grocery stores and other businesses (pharmacies, convenience stores) will still be open so I think things will be quiet,” Burke said.

Resources for seniors, homeless

In an interview with The Tribune on March 17, Mickaelian preceded the conversation by saying that circumstances and information may change since this is a rapidly changing event.

“Every day we are reassessing what is coming from the state and the county and trying to adapt to what they are doing,” he said. “We want to make sure our senior center members are able to continue to get food from Meals on Wheels. We do recognize our senior population has certain needs, we want to ensure that they continue to get their meals from Meals on Wheels, or through the Redwood Empire Foodbank, or if we need to find another path to do that through our local restaurants… (Community Services) Director Mark Themig is working with that population and the senior center to make sure they are getting their needs met.”

During the March 16 council meeting, Mickaelian said the city may work with the drivers assisting seniors in Healdsburg (DASH) program in order to get necessities like groceries and prescriptions delivered to seniors.

 “We are very concerned about our senior population, especially those who rely on Meals on Wheels,” Mickaelian said during the meeting. “We are continuing to work on that so they are able to get that.”

In terms of helping the homeless, Mickaelian said the city is communicating with Reach for Home and other resources like St. Paul’s, to try and provide resources for the homeless population.

“We are fortunate to have Reach for Home, they have the traveling nurses and they are able to provide some level of care and identify who needs help, but at the end of the day it really comes back to the county in how we are able to provide for those folks,” Mickaelian said during the interview.

In terms of utility billing, city spokesperson Rhea Borja said the city will be waiving any late fees, reconnect fees and disconnect fees for the months of March and April for electric, water and wastewater.

“We realize that this is going to impact the economy and people’s wallets,” Borja said.

When asked what message Mickaelian would like to impart upon residents he said, “We all need to take this very seriously, we see what is happening throughout the world, I think those folks who kind of look at this as an inconvenience rather than a necessity need to look at this as a necessity,” he said. “Our aging population is the most at risk if you take a look at the numbers of those that are being impacted the most by COVID-19.”

He added that city of Healdsburg employees that provide vital services will continue to report to work.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of practice with this with the floods and the fires and now this, so the one thing the community can rest assured is you have an outstanding staff committed to public safety … We have a committed workforce who is really looking out for the best interest of the city,” Mickaelian said.

He emphasized that residents should check on city channels on their website and city of Healdsburg social media pages for the latest information since they will have the most accurate and up to date information from the county.  

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