State officials on Sept. 22 stopped just short of ordering San Diego County back into the most restrictive “purple” tier for economic reopening. But state health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly warned that escalating coronavirus numbers continue to keep San Diego on the brink of being moved out of the less-restrictive “red” tier.
“We had a spike in our numbers and managed to stay below the metrics that would have taken us back a tier,” said Michael Workman, director of the County Communications Office.”We need to stay with it and keep pushing the numbers down. We would have to be back in purple tier numbers for two consecutive weeks to be in danger of falling back again.”
Just prior to the state announcing San Diego County’s health regulations would not immediately be tightened, Fourth District Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said: “We should be fighting COVID-19 and not the state. On Aug. 28, we were placed in the ‘red’ tier with the option to open additional business entities associated with that tier. I strongly recommended we move slowly, only opening the lowest-risk entities while holding the higher-risk entities until we had seen the impacts of school and university openings.”
Added Fletcher: “My fear at that time was expedited re-openings would put those businesses at risk of a sudden re-closure. I desperately wanted us to avoid the continuation of an open/close posture that is devastating for our small businesses.”
Recently, the state introduced the new tiered system that allows certain indoor business activities to resume, while requiring them to adhere to industry-specific guidelines. They also must follow hygiene, social distancing, and face-covering requirements.
While many sectors were allowed to reopen, not all can operate at full capacity. Gyms and fitness centers can operate indoors at 10% capacity or less.
Restaurants continue to be open for indoor dining limiting indoor operations to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower. Places of worship and movie theaters reopened indoors under those same capacity limits. Museums can open at 25% capacity.
Hair salons, barbershops, and nail salons can operate indoors at full capacity but must follow safety precautions outlined by the state and county.
“Under the latest health order, businesses will be required to implement a sign-in procedure, collecting contact information for patrons served indoors,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “This process will assist disease investigators in case an outbreak is traced to a particular business.”
The news that San Diego has, for the time being, narrowly averted a downgrade to a more restrictive COVID health tier was welcomed by Point Loma residents.
However, a handful of residents and Ocean Beach MainStreet Association representing merchants, surveyed by the Peninsula Beacon indicated some were poised to push back against tougher state-imposed COVID health guidelines.
“Honestly, this is insanity,” said Denny Knox, executive director of OBMA. “The outbreak that led to our higher numbers is clearly defined. We’ve had so few cases in OB overall since March even with lots of people out and about. To close down the economy again would crush any recovery we hoped for. The economic and psychological damage seems to be taking a much larger toll on society.”
Added Knox: “Small-business owners and employees continue to amaze us because they keep taking each challenge as it comes and they work to meet those challenges. This new color-coded grading system is a slap in the face. I don’t see how statistically speaking we could ever get to the bottom tier when we aren’t even considering hospitalization rates as one of the main factors.
“Hopefully, our leaders will come to their senses and allow the economy to continue to roll on without having to shut certain segments down. We deal with a lot of small businesses and it is painful to see them continue to struggle with an avalanche of rules, regulations, and ever-changing goalposts.”
When asked if the state or local authorities, should be responsible for determining COVID health regulations, Carl Silva, past president of the United Portuguese S.E.S. responded: “Local control.”
Sarah Moga of Point Loma had a similar take.
“Once again we are heading down this path... most kids still aren’t back in school and many businesses are suffering,” Moga said. “Something isn’t right here. We clearly aren’t doing things correctly. There must be more strict enforcement of social distancing so that businesses and schools can open, and ‘stay’ open.
“Many of the new cases are from college students at SDSU who are going to parties and not caring about spreading COVID. This is crazy and something needs to be done.”
Point Loman Jerry Lohla blamed leadership at the top for San Diego’s – and the nation’s – current COVID plight.
“The United States would already be recovering from COVID-19 like most nations if the country had as strong and compassionate a leader as most other nations,” Lohla said. “If the president had simply followed the advice of epidemiologists and scientists by mandating masks and social distancing back in March, he would have the United States already recovered and would have prevented most of the 200,000-plus American deaths. A tragic failure of leadership.”
Added Lohla: “The anti-mask folks keep talking about their personal ‘freedom.’ What they refuse to acknowledge is that in any democracy the flip side of personal freedom is personal ‘responsibility.’
“Those of us who wear masks care about our personal freedom as much as the anti-mask folks. But personal responsibility requires wearing a mask in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our fellow Americans, including the anti-mask folks. Masks are more to protect others than to protect yourself. Wear a mask.”