California’s freeze of COVID-19 watchlist magnifies breakdown in communication to counties


When Mono County was placed on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist for the first time last month after a spike in cases was reported in the town of Mammoth Lakes, the onus was placed on restaurants as the culprit of the surges.

Eateries that had implemented safety protocols starting in March suddenly had to prove that their staff was in the clear. Some businesses with just one case or none at all were forced to close, employees were out of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue was lost during the busiest time of the season.

Thirty-five out of roughly 580 restaurant employees ultimately tested positive for the virus, Mono County Health Officer Dr. Tom Boo told restaurant owners earlier this week. In a Zoom meeting with health officials and in conversations with The Times, restaurant owners said they felt that their sector had been vilified by the county.

In the time since they’ve been allowed to reopen, some owners said they believe that the county’s previous announcement had stigmatized their businesses, which in turn has created mistrust that has led to a drop in customers.

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