San Diego County Stays In Red Tier Despite Rampant Speculations Of Increased Restrictions | Indoor Operations At Many Businesses Can Continue

September 22, 2020

Despite forecasts that California Governor Gavin Newsom would move San Diego County into the state's most restrictive purple/widespread risk tier, the county is staying in the red tier and will not have to cease indoor operations at restaurants and other businesses.

It was expected that Governor Newsom would announce today San Diego County's movement into the state's most severe purple/widespread tier of COVID-19 restrictions, which would require that indoor operations cease at restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, gyms, dance studios, yoga studios, fitness centers, hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, piercing shops, skin care and cosmetology services and nail salons. San Diego County remains in the second highest red/substantial risk tier, which permits for reduced capacity indoor services.

San Diego County was alerted this morning that the state had announced its adjusted case rate at 6.9, just under the 7.0 that would have required the county to move into the most-restrictive purple/widespread tier.  Due to an increase in COVID-19 positives San Diego County, including almost 900 San Diego State University students testing positive, many business sectors were preparing for forced limitations on indoor service. Despite county administrators asking the state for concessions, including not including SDSU numbers, California officials did not make any such considerations. Several San Diego restaurants and other businesses had already reacted to the news with preemptive refusal to close indoor service again for the third time in 6 months.

San Diego County restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters can continue indoor operations at up to 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less. Museums, zoos and aquariums are also required not to exceed 25% occupancy. Gyms, dance studios, yoga studios and fitness centers may operate with 10% occupancy. Hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, piercing shops, skin care and cosmetology services and nail salons may operate indoors with normal capacity. Regarding retail businesses, the county is following state guidelines restricting retail to 50% occupancy. All indoor businesses must still abide by social distancing and face covering mandates, as well as post a detailed safe reopening plan. Restaurants are still required to close by 10pm, with all customers required to be off-premises by 11pm.

San Diego restaurants and most other businesses were first forced to shut down all onsite operations other than take-out and delivery on March 17. San Diego restaurants were finally permitted to open with restrictions on May 20, but due to rising COVID-19 numbers were ordered to shut down indoor operations on July 13. On August 18, San Diego County was removed from the state monitoring list, but a new 4-tier structure of restrictions was introduced on August 28, putting San Diego in the red category which allowed for the reopening of indoor operations among several business sectors, including restaurants, starting on Monday, August 31. Data will be reviewed once again at the state level next Tuesday, September 29. San Diego County will need to fall into tier criteria for 2 weeks in a row to be moved into a more or less restrictive tier.

This past Thursday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors met in a closed session to discuss the possibility of legal action against the state in order to protect the county from being moved to the purple/widespread tier, but no decisions were made. Another closed session of the Board of Supervisors met on September 21 & 22 to further discuss the possibility of litigation. Small business owners also organized a gathering in front of the San Diego County Administration Center on September 21 for the We Mean Business rally in protest of rolling back restrictions.

This is a developing story. We will update this post as we learn more.