In summary

Californians are suffering under the confusing and ever-changing messages from the top-down rather than being guided by their local circumstances.

Profile Image

By Brian Dahle, Special to CalMatters

State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican, represents California’s 1st Senate District, which contains all or portions of 11 counties, including Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra, and Siskiyou,   Senator.Dahle@Senate.CA.Gov.

There have been too many conflicting messages to the public surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a loss of focus on the people of California’s overall health and well-being, and the guiding values of this administration have been misplaced.

Since a public health emergency was declared in March, my office has received thousands of calls from people and local governments confused by conflicting guidance. This confusion stems directly from the administration and state health authorities. Local health officials have had little to no direction; instead, they watch the governor at his noon briefings talking about his dimmer-switch approach to his health orders, while Californians hope and pray for real answers.

“Localism is determinative,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during one briefing. When counties started opening, they were told to stop and wait for state approval, acting like more of an on-off switch than a dimmer. 

At first, local variances were allowed, counties were told that an “attestation” required the health officer’s signature. Later, after some counties announced openings, they were told the state would review and approve them. A defiant county risks losing state relief money. When Modoc, Yuba and Sutter counties were cleared to open by their health officers, as instructed by the state, the administration sent agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Beverage Control to shut down businesses complying with local guidance.

Things have become so bad on the local level that county health officers and other officials are caught between an irate citizenry, including death threats, and a state bureaucracy drunk with power. 

Unsurprisingly, more than 10 county health officials have resigned rather than face the reality of having no control over the residents they took an oath to protect. And, now the California Department of Public Health director has resigned after reports of major inconsistencies in the testing data.

We were told to go for walks to get fresh air and maintain good health, but then they closed state parks and beaches while leaving others open in high infection areas.

When protesters demonstrated and rioted across California, the governor’s response was, “God bless you. Keep doing it.” Why is it that the Constitution gives us the freedom to protest, and the same amendment gives us the freedom of religion, yet we can’t go to church? The governor obviously deemed church non-essential even though it’s protected by the Constitution.

Since March, consolidation of political power under the guise of public health has given Newsom sole authority to freely spend tax dollars and dictate public policy at will. Our constitutional freedoms have been trampled, and we must take them back. Currently, there is one branch of government making all of the decisions, decisions aligning with one party’s agenda.

The executive branch has taken the emergency declaration as a license to unilaterally govern, spend money, make policy and enforce laws without including other branches of government. History shows us that human rights given away during an emergency are rarely given back.

Perhaps most discouraging has been the abdication of the Legislature’s role. Legislative leaders closed the Capitol, returning to their districts. Leaders are supposed to face fear head-on and continue to represent the people they were elected to protect.

At this time of year, parents are preparing their children to return to the classroom. Instead, counties that are on the state watchlist are required to distance-learn for now, and local school districts not on the watchlist are grappling with fears and liability that can be solved by legislative action and bold leadership. Both in short supply right now.

Californians are suffering under the confusing and ever-changing messages from the top-down rather than being guided by their local circumstances. It’s time we look at individual areas of the state and implement sensible, safe policies that make sense based on the situation as they see fit by the local county health officers.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: