With San Diego County recently demoted from red to the most-restrictive purple tier due to an increase in COVID cases, Peninsula residents and businesses continued to grapple with ongoing state-mandated health protocols to combat the pandemic.
“You must be in purple for at least three weeks,” said Michael Workman, County communications director. “You can come out and go back to red 'if' the last two weeks are in red. This just continues on until you get two weeks in a row of red numbers.”
Unfortunately, metrics relied on by the state to determine which color tier a county belongs in are presently worsening.
San Diego County health officials this week reported another huge jump in COVID cases, 833, the second most in San Diego County in a single day during the more than eight months since the county reported its first COVID case. The county's total of COVID cases now stands 65,501. The death toll remains at 926.
Monday, Nov. 16 was the sixth consecutive day that more than 600 new coronavirus cases were reported countywide.
Slipping back from the red to the purple tier means non-essential businesses – restaurants, family entertainment centers, wineries, places of worship, movie theaters, museums, gyms, zoos, aquariums, and card rooms – must move outdoors or close.
Bars, breweries, and distilleries are able to remain open as long as they are able to operate outside with food on the same ticket as alcohol. Retail businesses and shopping centers can remain open with 25% of the building's capacity. Food courts are not permitted.
Only schools already in session can remain open for in-person learning.
Recent developments prompted responses from Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, and Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, co-chair, County of San Diego COVID-19 Subcommittee.
Noting the county had “passed a sobering threshold,'' Wooten said, “We can see light at the end of the tunnel.'' She nonetheless urged residents to stop the virus spread by social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding crowded areas, and staying home if sick.
“This is a stark reminder that COVID is real, is spreading, and must be taken seriously,” said Fletcher. “At this point, we are pleading with the public to take action to slow the spread: wear a mask, physically distance, and limit contact with those outside of your household.”
Reaction from Point Loma business owners was mixed as the pandemic continued to drag on.
“I see more masks littering the ground in San Diego than I see people wearing them,” noted Point Loma High School cinema arts teacher Anthony Palmiotto. “All of this is really sad. It didn't need to get this bad again.”
Point Loman Don Sevrens, a retired journalist, reported Nancy Qu, owner of Shanghai Bun on Rosecrans told him, “I’m pretty numb.”
“A couple of months ago I anticipated still another shutdown might be coming. I invested more money in a new patio cover with new lighting and ceiling fans and added patio heaters. I am proud that I have been able to keep all the Shanghai Bun staff on the payroll and that our entire menu is still available to go, even with curbside pickup. But, make no mistake, other businesses may not be able to survive the winter."
Jon Carr, Ocean Beach Town Council vice president, said: “I feel the beach towns and OB in particular experience an outsized negative impact by the lockdowns, since the beach offers something free and recreational, while everything else in San Diego and our surrounding cities are closed. Our businesses have to adjust to serving fewer clients indoors while street vendors get free reign of our public spaces with apparently no rules to follow.
“We’ve seen an explosion in unregulated business activity in Veterans Plaza since the pandemic began, and it gets worse every day while our brick-and-mortar store owners suffer under strict rules, and local residents have to navigate larger-than-normal crowds in these public spaces where social distancing and public health orders mean nothing. We’ve complained ad nauseam to our elected officials, with no results or real proposals for a solution.”
Barbara Iacometti of Details SalonSpa in OB felt relieved the state hasn’t cracked down harder.
“I am very happy to say that the purple tier is no longer closing down salons,” she said. “We have to follow the original plan we had to open back in June, which is limiting the number of people in the salon at a time, wearing masks, social distancing, not having people wait in the salon, etc. Just being in the purple tier has definitely affected people coming in.
“Their hair just isn’t as important as their health is. We are way down on the number of services we are doing and certainly have room for improvement. On the other hand, we don’t have the hours to give our employees, so payroll is down as well.”
Kyle Jaworski of Raglan Public House in OB was resigned about the whole situation.
“We are committed to following the guidelines set forth by the county at the moment,” he said. “We have worked hard over the last eight months to do our best to be prepared for whatever this crazy time throws at us.
“A huge part of our ability to do that has been the unbelievable support of the OB community. I really can’t say enough about how much it has meant to us. The great support we received from day one (March 16), gave us the ability to rehire much of our staff and train them on operating properly for the safety of our guests, our staff and the community as a whole.”
Concluded Jaworski: “We have been working on many different projects to maximize our ability to operate. We built a covered ‘parklet,’ expanded outside seating, and installed a to-go window to deal with the uptick in takeout business we have realized. My overreaching sentiment though is how thankful the entire Raglan family is for the support of the amazing OB community. It really is special and shows why OB is so unique.”