July 19, 2024
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Tri-Counties accelerate reopening but under strict guidelines


All three of the Tri-Counties are now allowed to reopen places of worship, hair salons and barber shops, as of amendments to state guidelines on May 25 and 26.

The new guidance comes almost a week after the region was approved, almost uniformly, to go into accelerated reopening. More industries can reopen, including dine-in restaurants and indoor and outdoor retail in places where COVID-19 cases are being kept at a low and manageable level with consideration to the county’s resources and ability to treat and track any new cases.

But being allowed to reopen doesn’t mean business as normal — not yet, anyway. The businesses that reopen have to self-certify that they are taking necessary precautions to protect staff and the public from spreading the coronavirus, and the requirement to be six feet or more apart can be hard on restaurants, where keeping physical distancing guidelines can mean sacrificing capacity.

To help with those concerns, the cities of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura are all moving forward with letting restaurants expand. Each of the cities are allowing parts of normally busy streets, like State Street in Santa Barbara, Main Street in Ventura and Higuera and Monterey streets in San Luis Obispo, to close to cars, letting restaurants place tables and chairs outside their physical spaces and letting people walk in the streets.

“We want to encourage the local population to have a closed street experience, to feel comfortable going out again,” said Jason Harris, Santa Barbara’s economic development director.

Places of worship, which have been reopened statewide regardless of their location’s position on the state plan, are also being asked to limit the amount of people who are allowed inside. When the state allowed places of worship to reopen, it said they should limit their attendance to either a quarter of the building’s total capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees — whichever is lower.

“Together, our actions have helped bend the curve and reduce infections in our state. As sectors continue to open with changes that aim to lower risk, remember that COVID-19 is still present in our communities,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, in a news release. “As more of us may be leaving our homes, keeping physical distance, wearing face coverings in public, and washing your hands frequently are more important than ever to help protect yourself and those around you.”

Indoor shopping malls can also join outdoor malls in reopening, but the speed at which malls are reopening is up to the businesses. Paseo Nuevo is closed but some restaurants in the mall never closed and some stores are reopening. Additionally, about half of the businesses at The Collection in Oxnard remain closed, with flyers from the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce taped to the doors, advising businesses how to reopen when they’re ready.

Not everyone falls into the categories put forward by the state, but those businesses are being considered as well.

SLO County is now allowing private fishing charters, dinner cruises and passenger for hire boats to go back to business. Morrow Bay Emergency Operations Center Director Steven Knuckles asked Dr. Penny Borenstein, the SLO County health officer, to allow those businesses to be considered in the same category as dine-in restaurants and retail establishments in a May 21 letter, and she allowed it on May 26.

Erica Crawford, president and CEO of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, lauded the decision in an email sent to chamber members.

“While we’re celebrating these announcements that we just received today, we are also keeping top of mind those businesses not yet permitted to reopen,” Crawford wrote. “This crisis is not hitting everyone equally.”

The governor has hinted that some counties will be able to go into Stage 3 soon, which means that higher risk workplaces will be able to reopen, beginning with limited personal care and recreational venues.

It’s unclear what those services will be, since hair salons have been brought into advanced Stage 2, but as of press time Stage 4 still contains larger gatherings like nightclubs, concert venues and live audience sports.

• Contact Amber Hair at ahair@pacbiztimes.com.