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Social distancing, hybrid format to continue at public meetings

San Benito County Health Officer makes recommendation

PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE San Benito County Public Health Officer David Ghilarducci speaks at the online board of supervisors meeting June 9. (screenshot)

Social distancing, as well as virtual or hybrid style sessions, will likely continue for the foreseeable future for public government board, council and commission meetings throughout San Benito County.

On Sept. 30, San Benito County Interim Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci issued such a recommendation, based on the continued spread and resulting impact of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

“Given the considerable impact on our community from the Covid-19 virus and the Delta variant, I strongly recommend that all legislative bodies, including but not limited to the County, cities, and special districts, local commissions and committees, and subsidiary bodies, continue social distancing measures for public meetings, including offering, at the legislative body’s discretion, a remote or hybrid format for public meetings,” Ghilarducci said in a statement. “Social distancing and masking remain crucial strategies in our fight to prevent contagion. Conducting public meetings in a remote or hybrid manner allows for members of the community to participate from the comfort of their homes without having to risk contracting the virus by attending in-person meetings.”

Such measures are in place to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, Ghilarducci noted. “(When) combined with social distancing and masking policies, and the continued effort to increase vaccination within San Benito County, a remote or hybrid format for meetings maximizes avenues for public access and input and minimizes the risk of contagion for not only the public, but for agency staff, presenters, and legislative body members as well.”

Counties, cities, special districts and public commissions throughout the nation have been meeting via Zoom and other video conferencing platforms since the Covid-i9 pandemic began in March 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom had issued an executive order authorizing remote public meetings during the pandemic.

Assembly Bill 361 was just signed into law last month, allowing virtual board meetings to continue until Jan.1, 2024.

The county’s board of supervisors will continue to hold meetings in a hybrid format, offering Zoom and in-person options, says a press release from the county.

In order to meet remotely, government agencies must make findings every 30 days that the current state of emergency continues to prevent members from meeting safely in person, or that state or local officials continue to impose or recommend measures to promote social distancing.