As San Diegans continue to comply with COVID-19-related public health orders and the illness trends downward, San Diego County health officials announced Tuesday the region’s houses of worship, hair salons and barber shops could reopen.
Following a largely uneventful Memorial Day weekend, county Supervisors Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher said houses of worship could open at midnight Tuesday and hair salons and barber shops could open as soon as they complete the county’s reopening plan, posted it publicly and given copies to employees.
Under the guidelines, places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever total is smaller. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of each county public health department’s approval of religious services within their jurisdictions, after which the California Department of Public Health will review the limits.
They must also arrange for social distancing of at least 6 feet between people, establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance. Other local restrictions include no singing, no touching and no passing of items.
Cox gave an example of priests giving out pre-packaged communion wafers to parishioners rather than placing it on their tongues.
“This will allow everyone to practice their faith while staying safe,” he said.
Churches and other houses of worship were ordered closed to the public on March 19. Since then, many have adjusted by holding virtual services, while a few recently resumed in-person services in violation of the order.
More than 1,200 pastors and clergy from across California sent the governor a letter last week saying they planned to resume in-person services May 31, regardless of state restrictions.
Some churches and faith leaders have also sued the state, seeking to compel the reopening of houses of worship, and the U.S. Department of Justice recently sent a letter to the state warning that restrictions on such facilities could be a violation of federal law.
In San Diego County, some 1.3 million Roman Catholics are being invited to attend in-person Masses as early June 8, church officials said.
Parishes may adopt different logistics, such as indoors, outdoors or a hybrid.
Hair salons and barbershops can open as soon as ready, but only for services which can be completed while a customer keeps their mask on the entire time, meaning eyebrow threading, eyelash work or face shaves remain prohibited. All employees must have their temperatures checked at the beginning and end of their shifts, the same as other essential and nonessential businesses open in the county. All businesses must provide face masks for all employees and customers — who are welcome to bring masks from home.
Nail salons are absent from the state and county’s guideline, but Gov. Gavin Newsom alluded they might be in the next wave of modified reopenings.
Additionally, Fletcher said one-on-one sports training would now be permitted, so long as the instructor and their student could maintain social distancing. This will allow for golf and tennis, as well as individual soccer, baseball, volleyball and other coaching sessions.
San Diego County health officials reported 85 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, raising the county total to 6,882 cases. The number of deaths remained unchanged at 249 for the third day in a row.
The number of cumulative reported tests rose by 3,908 to more than 140,000. The 85 latest cases represent 2% of the total tests, dropping the county’s rolling 14-day average to just around 3%.
San Diego County’s public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, said the data showed “it appears we may have peaked.” She said the next 21 days would represent another litmus test for the county’s handle on the illness, with reopenings Tuesday and Wednesday and a several week-long incubation period for the illness to follow.
Wooten urged residents to remain vigilant, but said things were looking better and better for the region.
In the meantime, Barona Resort and Casino also announced plans to reopen on Wednesday.
Other tribal casinos began reopening their doors last week, despite disapproval from county officials. Tribal casinos are on federally regulated land, outside the county’s jurisdiction. Barona Resort and Casino will be the eighth tribal casino to restart operations in San Diego County.
Barona’s first phase of re-opening will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Table games will be limited to a maximum of three players per table and every other slot machine will be turned off to further encourage space between players.
Patrons and staff will be screened for high temperatures and symptoms of the novel coronavirus before entry, a casino statement said. All will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
One of the casino’s restaurants will run at half capacity and its hotel will maintain a 35% capacity, casino officials said. The buffet will remain closed, as will the casino’s busing service and wedding chapel.
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