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Guest Column: State needs to revise its COVID reopening plan by zip code

By Sue Frost–
As everyone is painfully aware, the State of California remains in lockdown as we wait for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-March, schools and businesses have been forced to remain fully or partially closed.

We are now on our second or third version of a reopening model, but unfortunately, it still does not make a whole lot of sense. The latest model is a tiered system, placing counties into a different colored tier based on daily new cases and positive test rates.

The “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” as this model is called, still ignores the deficiencies of a county-based system.

I am proud to say that I have joined my fellow elected leaders in writing the Governor and the State Secretary of Health and Human Services, urging them to employ a system that makes more sense.

On Oct. 5, Assemblyman Kiley, Senator Dahle, Folsom Mayor Aquino, and I signed a joint letter asking for a reopening system that focuses on zip codes, not counties. We did so because cities like Folsom are meeting the levels of testing and positivity rates to advance tiers faster than the County. Meanwhile, Folsom shares a border with El Dorado Hills, which is advancing tiers significantly faster than Sacramento County, allowing for the reopening of schools and businesses ahead of Folsom.

To the surprise of no one, El Dorado Hills having more businesses open has caused Folsom residents to cross the county border to shop, dine, and enjoy a somewhat normal lifestyle. Because the state insists on sticking with a County-based approach, Folsom businesses are left to suffer without the ability to open fully.

When asked whether the state would consider a zip-code based system during a hearing, the acting State Public Health Officer insisted that they had to continue to let the data at the county level determine reopening. Then, in a contradictory move, the state announced that data from disadvantaged communities would be added as a factor in a County’s reopening ability.

While it is essential to ensure that COVID-19 does not disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities, this also proves that the data we use to reopen is arbitrary. California could benefit from looking to New York, where the Governor has decided to focus resources based on, you guessed it, zip codes.

Folsom and El Dorado Hills are not the only California cities that are separated by nothing more than a line on the map, including Citrus Heights and Roseville. Shifting the approach of the state to one focused on zip codes enables us to simultaneously focus COVID-19 resources in the most heavily impacted communities while allowing businesses in less impacted areas to reopen safely. Moreso, school districts that cross county lines can focus on putting kids back in classrooms and not navigating conflicting jurisdictional restrictions.

To me, helping the communities struggling the most while helping everybody by allowing businesses to open seems like a clear win-win scenario.

It is irresponsible to carry on with a system based on the assumption that county lines stop the spread of COVID-19. For more than half a year, businesses have been forced to stay closed or operate at a reduced capacity. Businesses and families are suffering, and not just from COVID-19, but an inability to pay bills and put food on the table.

We are beyond the point of doubling down on a flawed system to make it seem like there is some level of control. I sincerely hope that the governor and state leaders will take the words of my colleagues and I seriously and rethink the “Blueprint to a Safer Economy.”

Sue Frost, supervisor
Sue Frost

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights. She can be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or

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