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COVID, Census Take Center Stage at ‘Special Meeting’

MADERA — The Madera County Board of Supervisors held a brief, 30-minute “special meeting” Tuesday, tying up some loose ends on the last day of the County’s fiscal year.

The board’s main orders of business involved approving an annual $100 road maintenance levy on Bass Lake property owners and authorizing a letter to state lawmakers opposing SB 474, which seeks to prohibit any development in zones designated as VHFSZs — or Very High Fire Safety Zones, which include large portions of eastern Madera County. Supervisors also approved a revised agreement with Madera Community Hospital regarding hospital care and services for the county’s indigent population.

But the two hottest topics at Tuesday’s meeting were COVID-19 — and the U.S. Census.

“The two most important things right now are to get everybody wearing masks, because our numbers have really jumped — and to fill out their Census form,” District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler said at the start of the meeting.

Wheeler participated in Tuesday’s meeting via teleconferencing, as did Supervisors Max Rodriguez and Brett Frazier.

The board’s chambers at the Government Center were open to the public and everyone in attendance, including new County Administrative Officer Jay Varney, were wearing masks.

The meeting came on a day when a top doctor at the CDC (Dr. Anne Schuchat), commenting on recent spikes in hotspots like Arizona, Texas and Florida warned: “This is really the beginning. I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, hey it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine. We’re over this and we are not even beginning to be over this. There are a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Wheeler said he was “catching a lot of grief on social media” because of his adamant stance on the importance of masks during the pandemic.

Board Chair David Rogers, coming off recent hip surgery, attended Tuesday’s meeting in person together with Supervisor Rob Poythress. Rogers seconded Wheeler’s cautionary words regarding masks and COVID-19. “People need to be smart,” he said.

Wheeler also talked at the top of the meeting about the ongoing 2020 U.S. Census and how local participation rates have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

He said Census workers returning to canvas Madera County will all be wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Census Bureau workers are still being hired, at a starting pay rate of $18 an hour.

“Folks really need to get their Census forms filled out,” Wheeler added. “A lot of people aren’t completing them right now because of COVID. But it’s very important that everyone send them in.”

The county’s final population tally according to the 2020 Census will help to determine, among many things, how much federal support Madera County receives, Wheeler said.

“As summer heats up and we head into the 4th of July weekend, people are heading to their vacation homes and cabins,” said a press release issued Tuesday by the Census Bureau. “There may be a  2020 Census questionnaire packet at the front door. The U.S. Census Bureau is asking people to please respond now for your second or seasonal home.”

“For any cabin or vacation rental property you own, but usually do not live or sleep most of the time, follow the instructions below to minimize the need for a census taker to follow up. 

1. Visit www.my2020census.gov          
2. Enter the Census ID or address for this secondary property
 3. Enter “0” for the number of people living at this property
 4. Hit Next, and to advance page, click Next again
 5. Select “No” when asked to confirm no person lives at this property
 6. Select primary reason – Seasonal (most likely)
 7. Complete!”

Madera County resident may also respond to the 2020 Census by calling (844) 330-2020 or returning the paper questionnaire by mail.


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