During Monday’s marathon City Council meeting, some officials pressed the city’s health department to relax some of the stricter components of the city’s Safer at Home order — a near-copy of the county order — ahead of the rest of the region.
Councilman Steve Madison led the charge, pushing for the city to renew its emergency declarations, though by law they don’t need to be renewed. An order from the governor made Pasadena’s 30-day emergency declarations into standing orders don’t need to be refreshed unless the state lifts its own emergency declaration.
Still, Madison wanted to see the orders come back to the council, not because he wants to get rid of them entirely, but because he wants to see more discussions around their relative usefulness, he said.
It’s something with which his colleagues, Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton and Councilman Victor Gordo, agreed.
“I want Pasadena to recover more quickly and robustly than the surrounding cities,” Madison said, arguing the city had invested in its own health department for decades now and should reap the benefits of being able to make localized decisions.
For instance, Madison said other countries were allowing people to reintegrate if they had COVID-19 antibodies in their blood. He suggested Pasadena could do the same, if residents could get tested.
“That’s an experimental policy,” health Director Ying-Ying Goh countered, saying the practice was thus far untested. “I’d call that a social experiment.”
Madison pressed Goh to watch the results coming out of other countries because it may start to make sense for Pasadena.
“This is where having our own public health department may give us an advantage,” he said, before pivoting to a much simpler topic: golf.
Looking at Riverside and Ventura counties, both of which allowed golf courses to reopen recently, Madison said Pasadena could do the same and he wasn’t the only official considering that path.
Mermell said the city had been in discussions with the Rose Bowl Operating Company, which manages the city’s Brookside Golf Courses. They were already developing plans for social distancing on the golf course, but it’s unclear if or when the city-owned courses could reopen.
If the courses did reopen, the Rose Bowl Recreational Loop would likely stay closed, both Mermell and Goh said to Madison’s protestations.
“When we tried it in the beginning, people weren’t social distancing,” Goh argued, calling the loop “an invitation for a mass gathering.”
Even so, Gordo agreed with some of Madison’s sentiments, particularly about holding discussions around the Safer at Home order.
“I’m not suggesting we’re anywhere near lifting them; I just think it’s appropriate for us to have that debate,” Gordo said. “We have our own health department. Let’s use it.”
Pasadena doesn’t have to wait for the county to make a move, he said, adding the city needs to “start having those discussions now” so it can reopen facilities as early as possible.
Gordo pressed his colleagues to return to weekly council meetings, instead of the biweekly meetings they’ve had since the outbreak started. Right now, next Monday’s meeting is slated to be canceled.
It’s something that resonated with Hampton, who similarly pushed to hold more meetings, but it didn’t get much public traction from their colleagues or Gordo’s political rival in November’s election, Mayor Terry Tornek.
Tornek cautioned his colleagues instead, saying: “It’s not realistic, I don’t think, to believe our health department or this council would make a decision about which door to open and when. That would not be a scientifically-based approach.”
He warned against overpromising what Pasadena could deliver.
“Part of the reason we’ve not been meeting is because it takes a lot of staff time to prepare for these meetings,” Tornek said,calling to balance the council’s desire to be engaged with staff’s ability to get work done.
“There’s a frustration on the part of all of us in terms of our ability to answer constituent questions and impact outcomes,” he said. “We need to be realistic in what our individual roles can be, what the council’s role can be collectively. … We are not an island here.”