Calimesa declares emergency, closes city hall to public

Calimesa held its regularly scheduled city council meeting Monday night and everyone, including the audience, sat six feet apart, practicing social distancing because of the coronavirus.

Maintaining six feet of social distancing, the Calimesa City Council voted Monday night to join other cities across the state and nation by declaring a local emergency because of the coronavirus.

Even though 15 to 20 people gathered – more than the recommended amount – in the Norton Younglove multi-purpose room, they all sat about six feet apart, the suggested distance to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. Public members in attendance also sat in chairs spaced apart. It was an unusual sight, and it was an unusual occasion.

Although regularly scheduled business did take place at the March 16 meeting, the coronavirus was clearly on everyone’s minds.

Councilman Larry Smith chose to not attend.

“Health-wise, he thought it was better if he did not attend,” Mayor Bill Davis said before council voted to excuse his absence.

City Manager Bonnie Johnson presented the local emergency declaration that was added to the agenda at the start of the meeting with a unanimous vote. She explained that approving the declaration would allow her, as the city’s Director of Emergency Services, more fluidity to access resources should Calimesa need them.

“The coronavirus … is affecting folks all over the world. Here in the United States, the president has taken some actions, made some recommendations, the governor has made recommendations, Riverside County has made recommendations and staff is doing everything in its power to keep up with those recommendations,” she said. “It is very dynamic and it is changing quite frequently.

“What (this) does is put us in the position, if we should have to expend extra resources in any fashion, to be responsive to our residents, whatever that may entail.”

Funding and extra resources, like scheduling of staff, were among the possibilities Johnson mentioned.

“To date, we have closed our senior center … and have shut down all the senior programming,” Johnson said. “We did, however, make arrangements for continuation of the senior nutrition program.”

She pointed out available flyers with information about the nutrition program, which is already in place and will continue as long as the coronavirus emergency. Family Services Association, which operates Calimesa’s senior programs, will distribute weekly meal packages, consisting of five frozen meals, milk, bread and fruit, to any local senior from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Calimesa Senior Center.

The meals are grab-and-go, no dine in, and are free, although a donation is suggested. Seniors will need to sign up when they arrive to track once-a-week distribution.

“I commend FSA for being extremely responsive during all of this and taking action,” Johnson said.

The Calimesa Chamber of Commerce also took the step to cancel all of its events and fundraisers until further notice.

Unfortunately, she did expect more restrictions to “help flatten the curve,” a phrase health officials have been using to spur everyone to be more responsible and diligent in regards to lowering the peak spread of the coronavirus.

“We have already been looking at, based on new guidelines, gatherings, which are changing as we speak,” Johnson said. “We are likely headed toward a situation where we will close our city facilities to the public.”

She was right.

On Tuesday, the city of Calimesa posted on its website that all of its facilities, including the library, are now closed to the public. The city offices remain open through telephone, email and conference calls so business can be conducted. Contact information is available on Calimesa’s website, cityofcalimesa.net.

“I agree with your actions,” said Mayor Pro Tem Linda Molina before council voted. “I congratulate you on doing what you are doing.”

Mayor Davis closed the meeting by reminding everyone to use common sense.

“This flu is a very serious item and should be treated with respect, but … think about what you are doing,” he said, referring to the hoarding of groceries and other supplies. “Don’t worry yourself to death. You will probably get sick worrying about it.”

For information on the senior nutrition program, call 951-342-3057. The Calimesa Senior Center is located at 908 Park Ave. in Calimesa.

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