‘The New Normal’

For months, we have all been referring to the “new normal” which tries to sum up our lives since the pandemic was declared. In the last couple of weeks, we have added several emergencies to our “new normal.” The week of August 17, 2020 the state faced energy shortages that caused rolling blackouts during a heat wave. Luckily, Fort Bragg was spared most of the impacts from this emergency, except that on August 19th, the PG&E generators at the Fort Bragg substation were powered up for about seven hours to reduce the demand on the power grid. 

The good news is that they worked and are here and ready for a PSPS event. On August 18th, the Governor declared a state-wide emergency due to the fires and extreme weather condition. Again, locally we have been spared the losses caused by fires and the ongoing hazardous air quality but it is a reminder of our own vulnerability. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Laura. While spared from the emergencies impacting much of Northern California, we have not been spared from the drought. On August 31st, the City Council declared a water emergency and implemented mandatory Stage 2 water conservation measures. 

On September 1, 2020, Governor Newsom proclaimed September 2020 as “Preparedness Month” and urged all Californians to learn about how they can keep their loved ones and communities safe during an emergency. When I first read this, it seemed like a cruel joke. But on reflection, it is a reminder, even if cruel. We need to prepare for this new normal and as we conserve energy, water and resources, we need to consider that this is the start of wild fire season, the start of PSPS season, the start of the water drought, the start of hurricane season and the prelude to winter storms. If you have not, I encourage you to take stock of your home and make sure that you have flashlights, batteries, extra water, nonperishable food, an extra supply of medications, a radio (battery or crank powered), a “to go” bag packed and an evacuation & communication plan for your family, friends and even neighbors. 

Back to the pandemic or emergency number one. The Legislature passed and the Governor signed a new law that provides protections from eviction to tenants and protection from foreclosure to property owners. The legislation comes just as the California Judicial Council’s emergency rule 1 and 2, which prohibited courts from processing nearly all unlawful detainers (evictions) and foreclosures expired on September 1, 2020. Under the Legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021, for rent owed due to a COVID-19 hardship accrued from March 4 – August 31, 2020. Tenants must declare a COVID-19 hardship to qualify for the protections. For rent owed from September 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, tenants must declare a COVID-19 hardship and pay at least 25% of the rent due to avoid eviction. The legislation does not forgive unpaid amounts and landlords can start collection on March 1, 2021. Fort Bragg offers both residential and commercial tenants protection from eviction with Ordinance 960- 2020, which is effective through September 30, 2020. To provide small landlords protection from foreclosure, the Legislation extends the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords. For low to moderate income residential tenants needing assistance, the City is still accepting applications for the COVID HOME Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program. The funds are limited and will be distributed on a first come first served basis to qualified residential renters within the City limits. Please email tbra@fortbragg.com for more information. 

For local businesses, a reminder that West Business Development Center is accepting Business Innovation and Resiliency Grants in amounts up to $5,000. The grants are available to Mendocino County micro-businesses who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and need funds to pivot or reboot their business model. The application deadline is Friday, September 4, at 5pm. This program is made possible by The Community Foundation of Mendocino County and the generosity of local donors. Visit West Business Development Center for details. Local Fort Bragg businesses who received grants in July include: At One Yoga, Country Inn, Lunar Tide, Style Saloon, The Color Mill and Toscano’s Auto Repair. 

On Friday, August 28th, the Mendocino County Health Officer updated the Shelter-In-Place Order to be consistent with the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The new order allows hair salons and barbershops to open indoors, limits retail establishments to a capacity of 25%, grocery stores are restricted to 50% of normal capacity and Childcare units are expanded from 12 individuals to 14 children and 2 supervising adults. 

Finally, the most recent results of the Fort Bragg’s COVID-19 sewer test from 8-18-20 came back with none detected for both strains of COVID that the testing targets. This could be good news or a testing error. It is a little hard to believe that no one in Fort Bragg had the virus on 8-18-20. The test is a 24-hour composite test so it will pick up a complete daily sample. On the other hand, I have noted that the County positive reports have been relatively stable for the North Coast over the last two weeks, which does include Caspar to Westport, as opposed to the City proper.

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