Correcting Misinformation

At the December 14, 2021 board meeting, and over the course of 2021, some members of the public continued to make false claims or relied on misinformation when making public comment. Below is a list of corrections to some of this misinformation.

1. Myth: Contact tracing is used to give citizen's information to the government for tracking and other speculative purposes.

Fact: The purpose of contact tracing is to help protect you, your family, and your community by:

  • Helping people diagnosed with COVID-19 get referrals for services and resources they may need to safely isolate.
  • Notifying people who have come into close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 about their exposure.
  • Helping people who were exposed to COVID-19 know what steps to take to keep themselves and those close to them safe, depending on their vaccination status. Follow-up may include testing and quarantine for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people, and testing and wearing a mask for fully vaccinated.

Discussions with public health workers are confidential. This means that your personal and medical information will be kept private and only shared with those who may need to know, like your healthcare provider. Learn more about contact tracing.

2. Myth: The salary of the Public Health Officer (PHO) is not consistent with other counties ($90K was quoted for the City of Sacramento’s PHO).

Fact: The County of Nevada failed to recruit a PHO twice before finding Dr. Cooke. Her rate is consistent with other recently negotiated Public Health Officer salaries and reflects the current market rates. This is an exceptionally challenging time to hire physicians, particularly those with specialties such as Public Health. 

The City of Sacramento does not have a PHO – all local public health duties in California are performed by 61 local health jurisdictions, consisting of 58 counties and 3 cities – Berkeley, Pasadena and Long Beach. The current salary for the Sacramento County PHO actually tops out at $264,444 per year for salary only. This amount does not include benefits, overhead or ancillary costs such as travel, which are expenses directly incurred by contractors, and thus are factored into hourly rates. When you factor in a rate of between 35% to 50% for benefits, the compensation of the Sacramento County PHO rises to between $357,000 and $396,667 per year. This still does not include travel and overhead but, clearly, the cost of Sacramento County’s PHO is significantly more than $90,000 per year.  

3. Myth: The county has only addressed the pandemic by promoting vaccinations and masking restrictions that limit freedom.

Fact: The County recommends non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), as well as pharmaceutical interventions (i.e., vaccines). The recommended NPIs include masking, distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings, testing when symptomatic, treatment when ill, staying home when ill, and maintaining overall health. The public health department does not provide treatment to COVID-19 patients but does serve as a liaison and resource to local healthcare providers who wish to request FDA-approved treatments (that are sometimes provided via California Department of Public Health).

4. Myth: The County requires masks, which are not effective against the COVID-19 virus.

Fact: There is a significant amount of data supporting the effectiveness of masks in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, which the California Department of Public Health cites in their masking guidance:  https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx.  

5. Myth: The County has not provided transparency in its operations and use of federal COVID funds.

Fact: All County expenditures must derive from an adopted budget before they can be incurred. The fiscal year budget (July 1 – June 30) is adopted in a public meeting by a Board of Supervisors’ resolution, following a public hearing, which is advertised to the public no fewer than 10 days prior to said hearing. Changes to the adopted budget may only be made by Board of Supervisors’ resolution in a public meeting, requiring a 4/5 affirmative vote. These actions are always taken in public meeting and are open to public comment. The publicly elected auditor-controller will not authorize expenses that do not derive from a Board-established budget.

Federal funding provided to the County in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency does not circumvent the requirements for expenditure authority as described above. All expenditures related to the CARES Act (CRF) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding have been presented to the Board of Supervisors as presentations (i.e., not on the consent agenda) and were then adopted by a Board of Supervisors resolution requiring a 4/5 affirmative vote. A robust public transparency portal for both CRF and ARPA has been active on the County’s website since April of 2021 at https://www.mynevadacounty.com/ARPA.

6. Myth: The Board of Supervisors voted to increase taxes on Truckee residents (Measure T).

Fact: On August 10, 2021 the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution proclaiming its support for Measure T, a ballot measure proposed by the Truckee Fire Protection District - not the County of Nevada. Registered voters in the Truckee Fire Protection District, which spans both Placer and Nevada Counties, voted overwhelmingly to increase taxes on themselves by passing Measure T with 82.65% of Placer County voters in support and 78.52% of Nevada County voters in support (for an overall yes vote of 78.93%). The proponent of the initiative was made clear in the text of the ballot, which read, “To reduce the risk of wildfire/improve wildfire prevention, including removing dry brush, dead trees, fuels and fire hazards; improving emergency evacuation systems, routes and procedures; supporting defensible space around homes, neighborhoods and critical infrastructure, providing more green waste disposal options; shall the Truckee Fire Protection District measure levying $179 per parcel for eight years be adopted, providing $3,700,000 annually in locally-controlled funding for wildfire protection, with independent audits, exemptions for low-income residents, and citizen oversight?

7. Claim: The Board of Supervisors is not committed to transparency and public participation.

Fact: The Board of Supervisors’ regular meetings are set in a resolution that is passed at the first meeting of each year, in January. The board can hold special meetings, as needed, but regular meetings are rarely canceled, as doing so negatively impacts the County's ability to carry out its business. Meetings can be viewed live on TV at Channel 17 (Comcast) and Channel 17 and 78 (Suddenlink), as well as on the live stream accessed through the County website. Anyone not able to attend in person can provide comment via eComment (this tool is available from the time the agenda is posted until 4 pm the day before the meeting), or by phone (see the meeting agenda for the call-in number).

When a snowstorm is forecast, Facilities staff arrives on location between 3 and 4 am, depending on the severity of the anticipated storm. At the Rood Center, staff and hired contractors use heavy equipment to remove snow from the parking lot, walkways, and entrances. Around 5:30 am, the facilities director, IGS director, and CEO assess the situation and determine whether the facilities are safe to open for staff and the public. This is based on progress clearing the lot, sidewalks and entrances, local road conditions, and the current and forecast snow fall rate. The building closure public information line (530-470-2641 for Western Nevada County) is then updated. If closed, the media is also notified. The County does not coordinate closure decisions with local schools, as different factors affect our ability to operate.

8. Myth: The County continues to withhold relevant requested data.

Fact: The California Public Records Act (“PRA”) guarantees the public has access to records of governmental bodies. Anyone can make a PRA request and the County is legally required to respond to that request. Over the past 18 months, numerous citizens and groups have made PRA requests for records related to COVID-19. The County has complied with its legal obligation and responded to all these requests.  In doing so, the County has provided requesters with thousands of pages of records.  These records include every Board of Supervisor-action related to COVID-19. The County has also provided public health records and financial information, including transaction-level data for the County’s Coronavirus Relief Fund expenditures and summaries of how the County compiled that data. Where the County has not had responsive records, or where it could not legally release records to the general public (e.g., confidential records such as death certificates), the County has assisted requesters by directing them to other entities that may have those records, or informed them of other processes through which the records may be obtained.

9. Myth: The County will use drones to infringe on privacy rights.

Fact: The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Program is a pilot program only for verification and enforcement of unpermitted cannabis cultivation. Privacy rights were a consideration in developing the UAS pilot program procedures. The tool can only be used to take photographs of unpermitted cannabis cultivation and associated violations. No photographs or video recording of persons will be captured. Data collection and retention is consistent with current department policy and as allowed by law.

10. Myth: The oath of office is not valid.

Fact: All of the oaths taken by the board and county counsel are on file and are consistent with legal mandates. The California Supreme Court ruled that only the first paragraph of the oath listed in section 3, article XX of the California Constitution is valid, and the 2nd paragraph was held to be invalid. (Vogel v. Los Angeles County, 68 Cal. 2d 18, 26 (1967).)

11. Myth: The County will not provide copies of the supervisors' oaths of office.

Fact: Any member of the public can obtain this information by submitting a public records request to the clerk of the board at 530-265-1480 or through the website at: County of Nevada Public Records Requests.