Op-Ed: Regional misalignment: The crushing impacts of Sacramento decisions upon California’s remote communities

Jennifer Kreitz, Chair, Mono County Board of Supervisors

By: Jennifer Kreitz, Chair, Mono County Board of Supervisors

The disconnect between Sacramento and California’s rural and remote communities has never been as evident as witnessed over the past 10 months. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has highlighted the need for a better understanding of the unique qualities and economies of each of California’s counties, and a recognition that one-size-fits-all policies do not work in our state.

Governing a state as large and diverse as ours, as well as working with the uniqueness of each community as we collectively face an unprecedented health and economic crisis is challenging. However, Mono County is at a critical crossroads as our local communities struggle to both survive the worst public health pandemic since 1919 and maintain a viable local economy. The State’s Regional Stay-at-Home (RSAH) Order that was put into place in early December further exacerbates the challenges and has brought our county to a breaking point.

Situated between the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the California/Nevada border, Mono County is remote, and the County seat (Bridgeport) is more than 350 miles from the City of Los Angeles. Yet, inexplicably, Mono County was placed in the massively populated, geographically gigantic, horseshoe-shaped Southern California Region of the RSAH Order. This has crippled our local economy and provided us with no enforcement support as visitors and tourists arrived by the carload to our tourism-dependent community.  

Locally, we have worked tirelessly to balance our public health response and to support our local economy.  Now, we face the fact that our business community is suffering unparalleled economic devastation. Our residents’ financial survival is dependent upon a tourism-based economy, for which the winter holiday period is critical. The financial loss over last winter and this winter holiday season has multiple businesses on the brink of permanently closing or bankruptcy. Business closures, job losses and reduced payrolls have impacted owners and thousands of employees and their families. The RSAH Order will continue to devastate Mono’s local businesses, resulting in higher levels of unemployment and lost revenues to support local government’s essential services. All while we experience high capacity within our local health care system.

On Jan. 7, Mono County and the Town of Mammoth Lakes sent a joint letter to Governor Newsom pleading to be reassigned within the State’s RSAH Order framework. To date, we have received no response to our plea.  

Throughout the pandemic, Mammoth Hospital, the only hospital in Mono County, has been able to operate within capacity and has yet to experience any surge in COVID-19 patients. In fact, there are no COVID-19 patients in Mammoth Hospital as of this writing, and we are fortunate to have ample transfer capacity at our primary support diversion hospitals in Northern Nevada.  

We recognize the broad, complex and nearly impossible scope of the state’s pandemic response. However, Mono County had been successful in implementing and managing our local COVID-19 response prior to being placed into the Southern California Region of the RSAH Order. Simply put, there is no viable path forward for the health and well-being of our rural, remote county in the Southern California Region. Mono County has no similarity or hospital connection to Southern California. If not reassigned, we will be forced to make impossible decisions in our best effort to balance the public health threat, the collapse of our economy and limited ability to manage visitation and local business activity for our rural county.  

Ranked by population of California’s 58 counties, Mono County is fifth from the bottom, while the top five counties are all within the Southern California Region of the RSAH Order. Our residents deserve a more equitable seat at the table in Sacramento. We’re begging the State to put down the shotgun, and take out the scalpel.