Pushed to the limits: Public safety agencies, courts face challenges during the time of COVID – The Union of Grass Valley

Entire aisles are off limits to people in the courtrooms to aid in social distancing at Nevada County Superior Court in Nevada City. People are required to wear face coverings at all times in the courthouse as well.
Photo: Elias Funez

It’s been nearly a year since Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a statewide shelter-in-place order as a response to the growing toll from the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic. Weeks of uncertainty followed as municipalities grappled with testing, ever-shifting health mandates and finally with vaccine protocols. A year later, many remain unsure there will ever be a return to “normal” as we once knew it.


What strikes Penn Valley Fire Capt. Clayton Thomas as he looks back on 2020 is how quickly COVID-19 became an issue in the United States.

From the first reporting in December 2019 and January 2020, it seemed a “matter of weeks” before cases burgeoned, he said.

“It changed the way we do business,” Thomas said. “We went from rarely wearing a mask, except in very specialized situations, to nearly constant (masks).”

In the beginning, he recalled, no one was even sure how the virus spread.

“We knew it was airborne,” Thomas said. “Surface transmission was a big fear back then, but we since have learned that is very rare. There were so many unknowns. At the beginning, we were drinking from a fire hose (with) the amount of information.”

The fire department’s staff was training weekly on new protocols, determining on the fly how to handle masking and the number of people who could work in contained areas.

“A year into it, we’ve learned a lot about how this works, how it’s transmitted,” Thomas said. “The level of anxiety is lower. As a

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