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EL CENTRO — Imperial County amended the health officer order Wednesday, July 1, in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent suggestion for Imperial County to revert back to Stage 1.   

“This health officer order was done because the Governor, Gavin Newsom, said that if we didn’t make a decision to do something, that he was going to make a decision for us,” said Imperial County Public Health Officer, Dr. Stephen Munday. “So, we decided that we know this community and that we could make the best decisions to keep everyone safe here in our community rather than have something imposed on us.”

As per county officials, changes that were specific to the amended health order were developed with a 13-point plan (complete plan available on the Imperial County Public Health Department website) to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Imperial County. 

Retail businesses are to close in-store shopping and allow for curb-side pickup only. 

Religious services recently began allowing in-door services at a limited level, with no more than 100 people and no more than 25 percent capacity. It was then expanded to outdoor services. Due to the impact of COVID-19 to the community, the order had to be reversed — no longer allowing indoor religious services. 

“We are not prohibiting outdoor services, but we are limiting them to no more than 100 people, as long as social distancing measures can be implemented,” said Munday. 

County parks are also ordered to close again. 

“Parks are locations where people tend to mix and mingle, play soccer together, families interact with each other,” said Munday. “So, it’s really an effort to keep mingling and mixing from occurring.”

As per the County, businesses are strongly encouraged to remain open — essential or not — as long as social distancing is being practiced and face coverings are being worn.

“We would love it, if for businesses where people actually do have to go into the store, that they limit it to just one member of the family,” said Munday. “We understand that there are going to be times when that is going to be impossible for the family’s given situation but in general, if people could limit to just one family member going to the store, that will greatly limit the number of people that are actually inside.”

Face coverings are required for everyone over the age of two, with certain exceptions listed in the state health officer order. 

Healthcare officials urge, facial covers are not meant to replace physical distancing. 

People are still advised to stay six feet apart from each other whenever possible, and all nonessential gatherings of any size are prohibited.

“The point of this new order is to try to limit the mixing of people in situations where you can potentially become exposed to somebody who has COVID-19,” said Munday. “It’s important to keep in mind that any exposure to another person is a possible exposure to COVID-19. This does not include members of the same household because they live together and are already mixed, but it is important to understand the other relatives that do not live with you should not be mingling with you either.”

As per county officials, not all of Governor Newsom’s sentiments about Imperial County were negative. 

“Earlier this afternoon, during his daily news conference briefing, Governor Gavin Newsom supported and complimented Imperial County for the leadership and willingness to engage in a collective effort,” said Imperial County Chairman of the Board, Luis Plancarte. 

The conference also revealed how the County made many requests to the State and federal governments to help mitigate the efforts and impacts of COVID-19, such as bilingual contact tracers, bilingual investigators, increased testing capacity, and potentially expanding the level of care in the alternate care facility located at IVC. 

As we celebrate the Fourth of July weekend, the County urges the public to avoid the three C’s: crowds, confined spaces, and close contact with those outside of your household. 

“This was a hard decision but we chose to do things that we felt would really limit mixing between people, which is what seems to be driving the epidemic (not specifically here in Imperial County, but everywhere else),” said Munday. “This was our attempt to really focus the efforts to keep everyone safe based on things that are unique to our community and specific to our community, as opposed to having someone who’s not from our community make the decision for us. We really would ask as we approach the birthday of our nation and how important freedom is and we understand how difficult it is that we have to impose these measures, but it’s really about keeping everyone safe. So, please keep your family at home, please don’t mingle with other people, please wash your hands, please wear your face coverings if you must be out in public, and just really look out for each other because that’s really the only way we’re going to get through this epidemic.” 

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