Some San Diego restaurants opened for breakfast and lunch Thursday, as the county stepped cautiously into expanded Phase 2 reopenings after California approved its request Wednesday night to allow dining at restaurants and in-store shopping, both with social-distancing restrictions.
Elected officials and business leaders alike showed optimism Thursday afternoon, but also cautioned San Diegans to be patient as the new normal fits into place. Even as the more than 16,000 restaurants and food-service facilities across the region gained the ability to reopen, county health officials reported 175 COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths, raising the county totals to 6,315 cases and 241 deaths.
Restaurants and shops must fill out the county’s Safe Reopening Plan form and post it publicly to reopen, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a tweet Wednesday night.
Some restaurants completed this form ahead of time and were able to open Friday.
Some of the guidelines restaurants must adhere to include having tables six feet apart, having temperature screening of employees, requiring facial coverings on employees at all times and on customers unless they are seated, and encouraging reservations.
Retail stores have similar restrictions, including limiting the number of shoppers in stores to maintain social distancing and requiring facial coverings for employees and customers at all times.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that while the county tried to answer many of the broad questions from business owners and customers, it was impossible to foresee every scenario. He encouraged those with questions to call the county’s 211 number.
Jeff Rossman, president of the San Diego branch of the California Restaurant Association, urged diners to be patient with businesses, who were doing everything they could with limited supplies, information and staff.
“We encourage people to take their time,” he said, noting he would open his own two restaurants the first week of June. “Please don’t come in if you’re sick. Please be courteous, comply with signage and give yourselves extra time to comply. We’ve seen the long lines at casinos reopening, we don’t want people queuing. Wait in your car if possible until your table is ready.”
The county also sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday night asking him to approve a pilot program for Phase 3. If approved, it could allow for the reopening of certain facilities, including youth and sports clubs, salons, fitness clubs and outdoor religious services.
Fletcher, the lone dissenting vote on that Phase 3 letter, said Thursday that the county needed to pause while in stage two before moving to the “moderate risk” businesses and workplaces planned to open in Phase 3. Once San Diegans begin to feel comfortable with the modified openings and the county health data doesn’t show any sharp spikes, those businesses, workplaces and houses of worship could begin to reopen in Phase 3 of the governor’s plan.
Of the 11 deaths reported Thursday, the ages ranged from 51 to 100 and occurred between May 14 and May 20, said the county public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten.
The county recorded 4,722 COVID-19 tests Wednesday, for 120,559 cumulative tests. The 175 positive cases represent just 4% of all tests reported Wednesday, just above the region’s 14-day average of 3.6% positive.
Wooten reported 73 active outbreaks in the county, 50 of which occurred in congregate living facilities which could be traced to 1,391 cases — 22% of all the county’s COVID-19 cases — and 119 deaths.
Jamul Casino reopened its doors Thursday with restrictions and two more tribal casinos will do the same Friday.
Valley View Casino & Hotel and Harrah’s Resort Southern California will both reopen Friday.
Viejas Casino and Resort reopened Monday and Sycuan Casino reopened Wednesday.
All five casinos are on tribal land, meaning they are not subject to the same state regulations that have limited most business operations in California.
Casino Pauma announced Wednesday that it will remain closed for the time being in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The casino has been closed since March 15 and will remain shuttered until further notice, according to a statement released on the casino’s website.
Fletcher announced Wednesday that in-person funerals, both indoors and outdoors, will be allowed again, provided every person in attendance wears a face covering and different household units maintain six feet of distancing from each other.
Additionally, he said that while houses of worship can open for funerals, they are a one-time situation. Any regularly scheduled religious services are still prohibited in person by the California’s reopening guidelines.