San Diego is off the state COVID watchlist, but when many twice-closed businesses will be allowed to reopen, and under what circumstances, is yet to be determined. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 25 said the state would issue guidelines by Friday, Aug. 28.
“We’re awaiting guidance from the state,” said Michael Workman, director of the County Communications Office. “I hesitate to guess.”
As to the status of current COVID cases, Workman noted, “We are hovering just above 80 cases per 100,000. We had to be under that for three days to come off the state list, then stay below 100 for 14 days. On the 15th day, schools can reopen.”
“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.”
There remains a lot of uncertainty about what’s coming next in these COVID-ravaged times, said Denny Knox, executive director of Ocean Beach MainStreet Association.
“To be honest, no one knows what the plan is from the state,” said Knox. “Most businesses are entirely frustrated. Many businesses are still not allowed to open indoors under any circumstances.”
For instance, “Salons are only allowed to do haircuts outside,” she said. “For most salons, that isn’t even an option (could be next door to a restaurant). Also, haircuts are just a small portion of most salon businesses. They had all ramped up and made reopening plans and did reopen. Then the hammer came down and they seem to be the last to be allowed to open again.”
Added Knox: “Dentist offices are, and have been, open with no spike in cases. Most salons should be reopened with a reduced number of clients, masks for all, and stringent cleaning protocols.”
Continued Knox: “If a particular business has an outbreak, then close that business so that they can clean and change their protocols. It is very likely that whole industries will not recover if they are still closed after six months. It’s a huge loss for these business owners.
“Many of them invested their life savings to establish their business. It is heartbreaking to watch them wait. All of our businesses need to completely reopen in order to survive for the long haul.”
Two local community planners, Andrea Schlageter, Ocean Beach Planning Board chair, and Margaret Virissimo, a Peninsula Community Planning Board member, both are convinced the pandemic is far from over.
“I find all of the outlooks on how soon the world can go back to ‘normal’ far too optimistic,” said Schlageter. “There is still no effective medical treatment for COVID-19 and most viruses do not have cures. There has been no evidence that humans produce long term antibodies to this virus, e.g. the chickenpox. This, coupled with the estimated one-third of the U.S., population saying they will not be getting a COVID-19 vaccine, means the virus is going to be an ongoing problem. I have been speaking to many businesses who are figuring out ways to convert their existing structures to outdoor seating, going a step further than simply taking over their parking lots. If you want your business to be around in the long run, it’s best to start thinking similarly.”
“Although San Diego is off the watch list … it will be a long road to fully reopen and get back to normal,” contends Virissimo. “We don't want to undo the progress we've made thus far. So I would like to see neighbors continue to wear masks, proceed safely, and most importantly, support all your local mom-and-pops. It is crucial to continue to shop and support local to continue to keep our local economies booming but at the same time respect city and state safety guidelines. The good thing is that businesses have the option to temporarily operate outdoors.”