City of Riverside Declares Local Emergency, Closes Non-Essential Facilities to the Public

Published: 03/13/2020



March 13, 2020



Phil Pitchford

Public Information Officer


[email protected]


City of Riverside Declares Local Emergency, Closes Non-Essential Facilities to the Public


RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The City of Riverside declared a local emergency today (3/13) to increase its efforts to protect the public from the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many City offices, including City Hall, libraries and community centers, will close to the public at 5 p.m. and not re-open until at least March 23.

Most city employees will continue to report to work for their regular schedules. Some will be re-assigned to other duties necessitated by the closures, including communicating with the public. The decision to close public buildings to the public will be reviewed each Monday, starting March 23. A full listing of closures will be available at www.riversideca.gov.

“This step is necessary and was not taken lightly,” Mayor Rusty Bailey. “We must do our part to slow the potential spread of COVID-19 so that our medical facilities are not overwhelmed by more cases in the future.”

The declaration of local emergency will not affect the work schedules of Police, Fire, and Riverside Public Utilities employees whose work is required to provide the city with water and power.

The City will cancel many scheduled public events at city facilities. Refunds of special event fees will be issued to organizations that previously paid fees for the cancelled events.

Online services, including permitting and bill payments, will remain available; bills may also be paid by phone, or by mail. Utility payments centers will have drop boxes available at the Orange Street facility downtown and at a facility in the Casa Blanca neighborhood. No utility shut-offs will be undertaken at least until the end of April, and late payments will be accepted without penalty.

The declaration of local emergency allows City Manager Al Zelinka to better prepare the city by purchasing supplies, materials and equipment without going through normally-required bidding requirements. The declaration is expected to be ratified by the Riverside City Council on Tuesday, March 17. If ratified, the declaration of local emergency must be reviewed every 30 days until the local emergency is terminated.

“Riverside residents need to know that their local government is taking steps to keep them safe,” Mayor Pro Tem Erin Edwards said. “We have a strong team in place that will continue to monitor the situation locally, across the state and the nation to ensure we are taking the proper steps moving forward.”

The City of Riverside’s proclamation of local emergency notes that “there exists conditions of a disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons or property within the territorial limits of the City of Riverside that are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of the City for the reason of COVID-19.”

The declaration of local emergency comes as local, state and federal governments are working in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19 across the country, in order to reduce the potential of the virus to overwhelm the nation’s healthcare agencies. President Trump declared a national emergency today.

Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4. County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser on Thursday ordered the cancellation of public gatherings of 250 people or more in Riverside County. Gov. Newsom included that recommendation in a series of preferred measures he released Wednesday evening. He also called for limiting gatherings of people who are at higher risk for COVID-19 to 10 people or fewer, and for delaying or canceling meetings where attendees cannot observe at least six feet of “social distancing” from one another.

There are eight cases of COVID-19 involving Riverside County residents, two of which involve Riverside County residents who are infected but have not returned to the area. The County Board of Supervisors unanimously ratified a local public health emergency declaration on Tuesday.

The City of Riverside is still holding its scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 17. Many items that were scheduled to be heard that day have been removed from the agenda. A scheduled hearing on a on the property of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church remains on the agenda for the portion of the meeting that starts at 6:15 p.m.

Other public meetings could be cancelled or delayed in the near future, including City Council meetings. At meetings that do occur, attendees will be encouraged to cover their mouths when coughing, wash their hands frequently, refrain from touching their faces, and stay at least six feet away from another person.


The six-foot social distancing recommendation is likely going to limit the number of people who can simultaneously attend a City Council meeting to about 50. City officials are determining how best to utilize the Council Chambers and the nearby lobby of City Hall when needed. Residents who want to weigh in on issues before the City Council but do not want to attend a public meeting are encouraged to use the “e-comment” feature HERE


The City is encouraging residents to educate themselves about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect themselves and their families, by reviewing a new city webpage devoted to the topic. The webpage – RiversideCA.gov/COVID-19 -- is stocked with the latest information about the virus, which recently was described for the first time as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.


More than 1,629 people are infected with the virus in the U.S. and 41 people have died, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Riverside County Department of Public Health remains the lead agency locally. Links to these agencies’ websites and many others at the local, state and federal levels can be found on the city’s website. Topics on those linked websites include how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, what symptoms to look out for, and planning toolkits for businesses concerned about the health of their employees and customers.

Information is being regularly provided to two numbers -- 311 and 911 – that residents call for information or when they have an emergency, respectively. Riverside residents are encouraged to sign up for RiversideAlert.com for critical City messages and alerts.

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