Now that San Diego is off the state COVID watchlist, the county is asking businesses and organizations allowed to reopen indoor operations under new state guidance to review and redo their safe reopening plans to ensure they stay in compliance.
The state introduced a new tiered system recently that allows certain indoor activities to resume. However, businesses must adhere to industry-specific guidelines and follow hygiene, social distancing, and face-covering requirements.
While many sectors have been allowed to reopen, not all can operate at full capacity. Gyms and fitness centers can operate indoors but must limit attendance to 10% capacity or less.
Restaurants can open indoor dining but must limit indoor operations to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower. Places of worship and movie theaters can operate 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., County public health officer. “This process will assist disease investigators in case an outbreak is traced to a particular business.”
Under the new state monitoring metrics, San Diego County is currently in Tier 2, the second-most-restrictive of four total tiers outlined by the state, indicating that transmission of the virus is substantial.
Tiers are based on two metrics, case rate and the percentage of positive tests. To remain in Tier 2, the county will have to report between four to seven COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents per day and a positivity rate between 5%-8%.
San Diego’s state-calculated case rate is currently 5.8 and the testing positivity percentage is 3.8%.
To move to the next lower-risk tier, the County will have to report between 1-3.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents per day and a positivity rate between 2-4.9% for at least two consecutive weeks.
The state will assess counties on a weekly basis, with the next report scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8. Counties can only move one tier at a time and must wait at least 21 days between moves.
“San Diegans should be proud of the progress we have made,” said Fourth District County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “But we have to recognize the goal is not just to get our cases down, it is to keep them down. We’ve seen progress because of a renewed focus and vigilance, and we need that same focus going forward.”
Fletcher, however, has expressed fear that business re-openings may be happening “too quickly.”
“My concerns are with the size, scope, and speed of what is being reopened,” he said. “What we are doing is very similar to what we did in June with a large segment of indoor operations all opening at the same time. This led to a large increase in cases and required new restrictions. But the decision has been made and I will continue to work tirelessly to help us find a way to slow the spread, support our schools, and continue to help our community through this difficult time.”
Two Pacific Beach Planning Group members reacted to business re-openings.
“In these unprecedented times, the County of San Diego has taken our personal health concerns seriously,” said Marcella Bothwell, M.D. “Now, as we open back up businesses, we must take our health and the health of others seriously. When we, as citizens, scoff at the well-intentioned rules, we hurt other people, businesses trying to reopen, and ultimately ourselves. Let’s bring back the San Diego economy together. Wear a mask and social distance.”
“With an unknown number of asymptomatic people, there are still several hundred cases being diagnosed every day,” said Carolyn Chase, a former City planning commissioner. “I understand the needs to reopen, but risk management will be key, or another surge in cases will result.”