Some businesses can’t reopen until county has no COVID-19 deaths for two weeks

Sorry we are closed sign board hanging on a door of cafe

Though Gov. Gavin Newsom has loosened the state’s stay-at-home order to allow some retailers to open for curbside service as early as Friday, it may be some time before locations such as offices, restaurants, shopping malls and museums can start returning to normal as the state progresses through the second phase of its reopening plan in an attempt to rekindle a state economy ravaged by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, state health officials said regions can move further into Phase 2 of the reopening plan when they meet the following conditions:

  • No more than one coronavirus case per 10,000 people in the past 14 days
  • No COVID-19 death in the past 14 days
  • Ability to support employees when they are sick or exposed
  • Availability of disinfectant supplies and personal protective gear
  • Minimum daily testing of 1.5 per 1,000 residents
  • At least 1.5 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
  • Ability to house at least 15 percent of county residents experiencing homelessness
  • Regional capacity to accommodate a 35 percent surge in COVID-19 cases
  • Ability to provide a 14-day supply of PPE to skilled nursing facilities
  • Identification of metrics that counties will use to know when restrictions need to be tightened

As of Thursday, San Diego County had confirmed 4,429 cases of COVID-19 and 165 related deaths. The number of deaths increased by seven from the day before.

Stores able to open Friday include books, music, jewelry, toy, antique, home and furnishings, sporting goods, shoes, clothing and floral, but customers are still not allowed inside, so the stores will have to operate through curbside service or deliveries.

Manufacturing, warehouse and logistics businesses supporting those businesses also will be able to open Friday.

How much the update will change anything is uncertain. Many retailers that were forced to close their stores during the coronavirus shutdown have been offering curbside pickup for weeks.

“The uncertainty is not just from today or yesterday, but since the very beginning,” said Fred Princen, owner of Play It Again Sports in Pacific Beach. “Businesses stayed open or they closed, not really knowing if they should have. I sell bikes, which is essential transportation, but I also sell other things. Should I have stayed open?”

He decided to shut down March 18. But after seeing Big 5 Sporting Goods, a large chain and competitor, remain open, Princen decided to at least sell goods online and soon after began offering curbside pickup.

For small-business owners, reopening their stores — especially on short notice — is tricky. Many shops have laid off their entire staff, with owners handling pickup orders to stay afloat.

Rehiring staff members is problematic because many are being paid more through unemployment than they were at the stores, some business owners say.

As the state continues to release guidelines in a phased plan for reopening businesses shuttered or severely restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry presented a small-business webinar with representatives of various local business communities.

To stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has been blamed for more than 70,000 deaths nationwide, including more than 2,400 in California, Newsom on March 19 signed an executive order requiring the state’s 40 million residents to remain in their homes unless they were classified as essential workers. That came after Californians were urged to avoid mass gatherings and school districts began closing.

The economic toll has been devastating. The state has processed more than 4.2 million unemployment claims since mid-March, when businesses began closing their doors and laying off employees. Newsom’s finance advisers expect the state unemployment rate will hit 18% in 2020.

Newsom last week laid out a four-stage plan to gradually transition the state back to normal. His plan expands the authority of some county officials to relax restrictions further and open more businesses, such as restaurant dining rooms, on a case-by-case basis, a decision to be made in part on the prevalence of the virus in a community.

To do so, however, counties must first submit “containment plans” that meet certain requirements for hospital beds, testing kits and the ability to track infected people and trace their contacts.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to support a framework plan to prepare businesses to reopen.

Supervisors voted to send the plan to Newsom and make an official request for formal local control to make economic and other decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in San Diego County.

The county’s Reopen San Diego Business Safety Framework calls for all businesses to complete a Safe Reopening Plan, found at, and post it at the entrance. All employees must be given copies of the plan.

The framework, developed by the Responsible COVID-19 Economic Reopening Advisory Group, includes five guidelines that may be applied to all businesses:

  • Employee health: Procure and provide personal protective equipment for employees and commit to voluntary compliance with public health officials on contact tracing and testing.
  • Safe worksite entry: Establish controlled entrance and exit practices to avoid issues with lines and work with the Public Health Department to create processes for checking employees’ symptoms.
  • Workplace distancing and conditions: Evaluate occupancy and capacity to ensure proper physical distancing and keep shifts consistent with the same employees in each rotation or shift.
  • Employee training and compliance: Ensure signage on safety requirements such as hand washing, physical distancing and reporting procedures for employees who become ill.
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation: Develop a sanitation plan that includes frequent cleaning of restrooms, workstations and public spaces.

The Los Angeles Times and City News Service contributed to this report.