Small Businesses and County Health Officer’s Shelter-in-Place Order,
by Tabatha Miller, Fort Bragg City Manager.
On Friday, April 10, Mendocino County’s Public Health Officer Noemi Doohan issued a second revised Shelter-in-Place Order. This new Order is thirteen pages long and replaces the March 24th Order which was six pages long. It can be hard to figure out business you can transact and still comply with the order and what if any special precautions one must take. If you have questions or concerns, I would encourage you to call the COVID-19 Call Center at (707) 234-6052. This is staffed from 8:00am to 8:00pm seven days a week. You can also call City Hall at (707) 961-2823 Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00. We have staff that speak Spanish to assist.
Something new in the County’s April 10th Order is the requirement that all Essential Businesses must prepare and post a “Social Distancing Protocol” no later than 11:59 pm on April 13, 2020. Don’t panic if you haven’t completed this task. Most likely, you are doing the necessary tasks and just need to fill out and post the County’s check list, which was attached to the new order. This is available on the County’s website at https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/novel-coronavirus. Also remember that while a violation of the Order is a misdemeanor, education is still the focus of any enforcement action. You will get warned first. The proposed fines of up to $500 per individual and $10,000 per business only apply in the unincorporated parts of the County and not the City of Fort Bragg. The City Council decided this action was not necessary within City Limits.
If you are a small business and not operating, take a closer look at the Order. There are a few businesses like bars, nightclubs, hair and other salons, fitness centers, golf courses, hotels operating for any nonessential business, and trying on clothing that are not allowed because they are not essential businesses. But there are some businesses that can still operate, just not in the same way. For example, businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences may operate as long as all COVID-19 precautionary measures are implemented. Goods or services covers most retail businesses. Fitness centers can do virtual classes and hair salons can provide how-to videos and product kits that are delivered.
If you haven’t already, the first step is to make sure the community is aware that you are “open” for business. Westcenter.org has an “Open for Business” page, just for Fort Bragg - and also each of the other communities. There is a form on the left side, just below the “Industry” listing where you can submit your business information. Visit Fort Bragg has the Fort Bragg 2 Go (fortbraggfood.com) website which list all local restaurants that are open. If you are not listed or need to update your information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, get your Facebook page updated or your website in place. West Business Development Center at (707) 964-7571 has webinars on how to do this if YouTube video is not your thing. Get creative and deliver or ship your products to your customers. You are allowed to be in your business to secure inventory, ensure security, process payroll and to provide for delivery of existing inventory or gift cards to residences or businesses. I, for one, am a sucker for bonus dollars with purchase, or the buy a $50 gift card and get an extra $10 gift card for future use.
If you have questions regarding what you can and cannot do call the County or City Hall. You will not get in trouble for asking.