The Elk Grove City Council will continue their teleconferenced, online meetings, upon further evaluation.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arose in March 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that resulted in the suspension of in-person, public meetings. Governing boards could instead hold teleconferenced meetings without providing a physical public meeting place.
Although the council had planned to return to in-person meetings in July at Elk Grove City Hall, precautions over a then-recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Sacramento County prompted the council to instead resume their meetings online.
During the Sept. 22 council meeting, City Clerk Jason Lindgren noted that it is the city staff’s recommendation that the council continue holding their meetings in a full teleconference environment – as long as permissible under state law – while monitoring health orders of Sacramento County.
“What we’re really looking at is the requirement for face covering (use), when indoors, and that’s kind of the tipping point that’s been part of our discussions,” he said. “As far as when we want to return back into the chamber is when we actually see some relaxing of those regulations on face coverings.
“With the face coverings, it starts kind of obscuring, actually, the view of all of our faces as we try to talk in-person, if it’s still requiring us to wear a face covering when we’re in in-person meetings. The Zoom (application) environment (is) providing us an ability in order to communicate effectively sans coverings.”
Lindgren added that this issue will be returned to the council as a consent calendar item during their Oct. 13 regular meeting.
“(An approval of that item would) enable us to continue the provisions of teleconferencing, and staff will continue to monitor those health orders to see what options we have, as time rolls forward,” he said. “If anything, we’ve learned how to be flexible and to pivot around in these times of COVID(-19).”
Lindgren explained that the issue will be reviewed monthly.
“It’s kind of a sit and watch from the (city) staff’s perspective and that we’ll continue to have a check-in on this every 30 days, just about, just in terms of watching and keeping a pulse as far as what are the requirements for face coverings,” he said.
Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen recommended that the 30-day check-in period be reduced to a 15-day check-in period.
“To my understanding, we’re already equipped and ready to go (for in-person meetings),” she said. “It’s just really making sure that that switch happens when that notice happens, and allows us to determine which we prefer. But that 30 days just seems a little bit long.”
In response, Lindgren provided more details about the 30-day check-in period.
“What the 30-day check-in, and that going forward, is to continue the provisions of allowing teleconferencing for participating,” he said. “So, it wouldn’t restrict us in essence. Even if we had the teleconferencing as an option, we would still have the option to come in-person.
“We could go in person next meeting, but we would all be wearing masks, with the current health order that’s out there.”