COVID-19 Closures Continue


Last updated 7/30/2020 at 9:10am

The road ahead continues to be a difficult one...

After the loosening of restrictions and the recent developments being put into place, it seemed that many were returning to their daily scheduled activities and socializing. However, more and more parts of the state continued to feel the backlash of those re-openings, causing a major step back.

With the cases surging and the death toll reaching high numbers in California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the closures of many indoor operations, rolling back reopening plans to slow the outbreaks.

After announcing closures to counties on the state’s watch list, those closures were expanded to statewide in hopes of slowing the spread and preventing hospitals from hitting capacity.

Indoor operations include restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment, zoos, museums, and card rooms.

These establishments are able to remain open if able to continue outdoors. For restaurants, they may still do take-out if they can’t do outdoor/patio dining. With outdoor dining, they may continue until 10 p.m., but patrons must leave the premises by 11 p.m.

After this announcement was made, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced an executive order to waive permit applications to help local restaurants expand their outdoor dining options amid the indoor restrictions. Permits can take months to go through and can be quite costly.

This order waives permitting and parking requirements for the use of sidewalks and private parking lots as outdoor dining venues. He added that this order was important to “preserve people’s jobs and to preserve public safety.”

However, in addition to the closures statewide that were announced by Newsom, those counties on the watch list, currently 33, were given additional closures. For San Diego County, these closures began on July 15.

Gyms and fitness centers

Places of worships

Personal care services, including nail salons and massage and tattoo parlors

Hair salons and barbershops

Indoor malls

Offices for non-essential sectors

It is unclear, however, how long these restrictions will last as the numbers keep rising and no vaccine is in sight.

California has 386,960 cases and 7,716 deaths.

On July 20, Newsom announced that some personal care services, such as hair and nail salons, will be allowed to operate in some capacity outdoors.

Such accommodations have been in the works for some time, but it was more complex than other outdoor business operations because of the use of chemicals in some beauty services.

In the United States, there are 3,794,355 cases and 140,716 deaths. Worldwide, 14,567,109 cases and 607,187 deaths.

The additional actions being taken are due to the rising number of cases across the state and the county, which could overwhelm the healthcare system.

“We have been seeing an increasing number of cases and we need to take further action now,” said Wilma Wooten, San Diego County Public Health Officer. “We’re following state guidance to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

After Newsom’s major rollback in re-openings announcement, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones and San Diego County Supervisor’s Kristin Gaspar, Third District and Desmond, sent a letter to his office asking for his assistance with temporary permitting to allow indoor businesses such as nail salons and barbershops to provide service outdoors on July 14.

The letter noted that San Diego County had “zero outbreaks connected to hair salons, nail salons or barbershops.” It also noted that many “mom and pop” type businesses were being hit hard during this pandemic, and requested a similar permit for them to serve and operate outdoors.

“We urge you to reconsider this restriction which seems inconsistent with the guidance for restaurants and wineries.”

However, a day after the letter was sent off, 14 community outbreaks were identified in San Diego County, three involving a hair salon, barbershop, and a restaurant/bar.

In San Diego County, there are 24,135 confirmed cases and 478 deaths.

In addition to these closures, it did not end there.

The uncertainty continues and the fate of our students’ education is now in question, after the announcement by Newsom of strict criteria for school’s to reopen.

In order to resume in-person class instruction, a county must have been off the state’s COVID-19 watch list for 14 consecutive days. Districts in the counties on the watch list will only be able to do distance learning if they remain on the list. With this announcement, this would mean many, if not all schools in the state, would start online in the fall.

This can be seen as quite unfair to many districts and schools who can find it possible to reopen, but on the account of the other parts of the county, they can’t.

After the announcement, San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond said, “The announcement by the Governor to keep schools closed in San Diego is extremely harmful to our kids. The stats show those under the age of 18 have an extremely small risk of getting COVID-19 and passing it to others. School is much more than just education. Teachers are usually the first to notice and report kids in need.”

“From abuse and gang clothing, to changes in attitude, schools are the number one reporter of child abuse. Children need social interaction with their peers to promote healthy mental wellbeing. We are denying our children mental, social, and physical outlets by closing our schools during arguably the most critical time in their life. The closures of our schools will have damaging effects on the future.”

Supervisor Desmond added, “A logical response would be to allow the local jurisdictions to decide how they want to proceed with schooling. We have many different school districts from urban to rural areas that should be able to decide for themselves.”

This raises the question to small schools and individual districts like Borrego Springs, “Will it be safe to reopen despite a safety protocol plan in place?” Controversial indeed.

Prior to the announcement, some of the state’s former guidelines for reopening schools included recommendation of mask wearing for students in third grade and older, and required for teachers and staff, along with a reopening protocol.

If the schools that can remain open and allow for in-person instruction are forced to close back down, it will be because of the following:

- A classroom cohort has to go home when there is a confirmed COVID-19 case.

- School has to close when multiple cohorts have cases or if 5% of all teachers and students test positive

- Entire school district must close when 25% of its schools close within a 14-day period.

For Borrego Springs and other desert communities alike, operating outdoors is not usually possible, as the weather hits the triple digits making it unbearable. The use of a blow dryer would be unnecessary thanks to 100ºF+ outdoors, right?

Borrego Springs establishments continue to hold it down during this difficult time, even with the summer season in full swing.

There are currently only 15 cases in Borrego.

As cases continue to rise in drastic numbers right before our eyes, San Diego County will focus their coronavirus testing efforts for priority groups, including those with symptoms going forward. However, due to the high demand in testing, also plays a factor in the change of who can get tested. The challenge was noted to being compounded by a global supply chain shortage with testing supplies and components.

New appointments being made will be mainly focused on individuals who are symptomatic or those who are asymptomatic that fit into priority groups like healthcare workers, first responders, those with chronic or underlying health conditions and those living in long-term care facilities.

San Diego County District 4 Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that by taking this approach to re-prioritize the focus, we might “see a reduction in the number of tests being done, but hope to see an increase in the speed in which we’re able to turn around those tests.”

This pandemic is a tough one, but should not be something that we can’t get through. We need to remain vigilant, follow the orders and hope that this can be over soon.