The general consensus of Mammoth business owners these days: Business is terrific and my numbers are up, but boy am I overworked and stressed out!
Part of the reason they’re stressed out is because of the Covid roulette wheel. From day-to-day, one doesn’t know who will call in sick, and what co-workers might be sidelined as collateral damage.
At Mammoth’s Town Council meeting on Wednesday, Town Manager Dan Holler provided the latest Covid update.
Total positive cases in Mono County ballooned from 76 during the week of Dec. 19-25 to 177 for the period of Dec. 26-Jan. 1. The County’s test positivity rate tops 18%.
In terms of infection rate, Mono County ranks 4th in the state.
The County’s case rate is 177 per 100,000. Many cases are derived from folks who aren’t from here.
By age range, those ages 18-49 represent 70% of the new cases.
The omicron variant is now estimated to be 95% of all cases.
Ironically, the 211 Covid phone hotline was discontinued as of December 31 when state funding for the service expired.
While Holler said Mammoth Hospital is still classified as “green” and only has two Covid hospitalizations, conversations with hospital staff told a more comprehensive story.
Yes, there are not a lot of Covid cases making overnight visits, but the E.R. is certainly clogged with Covid patients, and the hospital’s understaffed due to Covid infections among its own ranks.
In Inyo County, the Covid update at Tuesday’s Supervisors meeting took a lot longer because the board meetings continue to attract a copious amount of public comment.
And most continue to chafe at masking restrictions.
The Board explained that the
latest mask mandate was put into place by the state, and that it is simply complying with the directive. They suggested if people have an issue with it, to contact state legislators and voice their opinions.
Some callers, however, accused the Board of Supervisors of failing their constituents by blindly following state and national Covid-19 agendas, citing how many of those infected with the Omicron variant are fully vaccinated, and therefore, the vaccines are not as effective as touted.
Though mostly negative, some public comments lauded the Board’s hard work during unprecedented times, and acknowledged that, while not perfect, they have done their best job at trying to navigate Covid-19 and keep people safe.
Covid-19 case numbers throughout Inyo County are rising again, following the national trend. According to the Inyo County website, there are currently 2,870 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the county, with 25 new cases since Monday, January 3 (up 0.9%), with 82.8 cases per 100,000. This ranks Inyo 12th in the state.
As the Omicron variant continues to surge, Inyo County Health officials encouraged residents and visitors to keep prioritizing prevention measures. On the Inyo County website, it states: “the best way to reduce your risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease is to get vaccinated and get your booster shot. We also strongly encourage everyone to upgrade your mask to a well-fitting surgical mask, or better yet, a KN-95 or N-95 mask.”
Crocetti caught up with a few local business people to ask about how they’re faring.
Virtually every business in Mammoth is understaffed, creating anxiety for how each indovidual business and the town at large will accommodate the flood of guests who frequent it during ski season.
Terry Lucian, manager at Kittredge Sports, named the biggest stumbling block for hiring to be the lack of housing available for workers.
“Because of the housing crisis, there’s no pool to hire people from,” said Lucian. “People can’t afford to live here. If you live here, it’s almost like you need to make 30 bucks an hour to pay your rent and be able to go out to dinner once a week.”
Starting wages at Kittredge Sports are $17 an hour, with raises promised to those who work hard.
Lucian has been in Mammoth for 45 years. He recalls a mass exodus a few years ago of semi-skilled retail workers from the area; they were buyers, rental managers, and up-and-coming workers who would one day replace his job. He attributes their leaving town to the rise in popularity of Airbnb.
“Someone puts their house up for Airbnb and all of a sudden they kick their tenants out because they’re going for that magical extra dollar, which is what happened,” said Lucian.
Wage-wise, Kittredge offers as competitive a wage as there is in town. But according to Lucian, the problem isn’t wages – it’s housing.
Andrea Walker, owner of Stellar Brew, had similar things to say about the lack of affordable housing creating challenges for hiring.
“Right now, everybody is looking for employees. Our competitive force is the lack of housing. We’re competing with our guests who come to visit and stay in Airbnb’s, which could be employee housing. I love our guests, don’t get me wrong, but so much of our housing inventory is wrapped up in second homes and Airbnb’s that we don’t have enough people in this town who can live here, work here, and actually service our guests.”
While Mammoth Mountain is able to offer housing and passes to some of its employees, not every small business in town is able to do so. Stellar Brew has recently been helping its employees pay for mountain passes, but that’s the best it can do.
The starting hourly wage at Stellar Brew is $14.50, not including tips.
Stephen Schau, Bar Manager at John’s Pizza, also expressed difficulty in finding workers to hire.
“Nobody wants entry level jobs. High schoolers don’t want to work anymore. Young people don’t want to work at the entry level, and older people don’t want to work for minimum wage,” he said.
The starting hourly wage at John’s Pizza is $15.00.
Due to staffing issues, John’s is closed for the moment during the day Monday through Wednesday.
But as Lunch has also heard in various conversations this week, while there is frustration about the state of Mammoth and the state of the world, there is also … a camaraderie among those still battling on the front lines, and gratitude for those who continue to show up day after day.
At The Sheet, for example, where would we be without June Simpkins?
At the Breakfast Club, during the worst of the storms when 395 was closed, Alisa Brook stayed up in Mammoth at her parents’ house so she could get to work the next day. Leonard Herrera was there, too. Rory Gammons. Fernando and Somite in the kitchen. They got it done.
And you know, we don’t live in the Bay Area.
As a follow-up to last week’s editorial, I attended my friend Otis Segers’ celebration of life on Wednesday, December 29 in downtown Oakland at the Washington Inn.
I drove the southern route through Bakersfield and got there about 7 p.m. Parked in a well-lit parking lot immediately adjacent to the hotel. There were other people parked in that lot as well as on the street.
When I returned to my truck at 9:30 p.m., both back windows were smashed out and they’d started on the front passenger window before someone had come out of the hotel and caused them to flee.
They stole my knapsack, which had some underwear and deodorant and a toothbrush and a few shirts and sweaters – I’m sure they’ll get pennies on the black market for it. Hilariously, they did not steal my ski clothes or my camera or anything of real value.
They didn’t break my windshield. They didn’t slash my tires. They didn’t make the truck un-driveable. And because I’m such a pansy, I bought a truck with heated seats and a heated steering wheel. I could drive that sucker through Alaska with all four windows down and be warm as hell.
I was texted a copy of a poster for an event occurring next week – a “Town Hall” meeting to be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Bishop.
Speakers advertised include Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice institute (PJI), and Inyo County District Four Supervisor Jennifer Roeser.
A little bit about PJI.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) describes itself as a “non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties … that works diligently, without charge, to provide its clients with all the legal support they need.” The PJI coordinates and oversees a network of hundreds of affiliate attorneys nationwide to fight in court cases involving freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and parental rights.
On Covid-19 vaccinations, the Pacific Justice Institute states: “These requirements are unreasonable and impede on the religious rights of individuals who sincerely believe that getting vaccinated would violate their conscience. We at PJI are here to provide you with legal guidance on COVID mandates. Sign up below to obtain a free copy of our vaccine resources and more information about the option for religious exemption or accommodation.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the PJI as a hate group, stating that conservative media often gives the group a platform to promote anti-LGBT rhetoric.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, PJI has: compared legalized gay marriage to Hitler and the Nazis’ ascent in Germany, endorsed sexual orientation conversion therapy, claimed marriage equality would lead to legal polygamy and incest, fought against protections for trans children and fabricated a story of harassment by a trans student, and said that LGBT History Month promotes gay pornography to children.
The Sheet called Supervisor Roeser to ask her why/how she ended up on the January 15 bill. She was stuck in meetings but we hope to speak with her and gather her thoughts for next week’s issue.