COVID-19: Chula Vista, county's second hardest hit city, ready to reopen for business

Posted at 2:33 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 14:53:20-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Now that state officials have approved San Diego County to go further into Phase Two of its reopening plan, local communities are feeling much-needed optimism, especially among local business owners, workers, and city officials.

Governor Gavin Newsom released late Wednesday night a list of several counties across California allowed to take another step into their reopening plans. This means San Diego’s in-dining restaurants and in-store retailers will be allowed to operate business with modifications immediately.

The timing aligns perfectly with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and accompanying shopping bonanza. This helps energize the local business community struggling to find hope amid closures, rising unemployment numbers, and high COVID-19 case numbers.

READ: San Diego region unemployment hits 30 percent amid COVID-19 pandemic

“We’re very excited, excited for our businesses. We’re ready to reopen,” said Lisa Cohen, CEO Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce.

In Chula Vista, the county’s second largest city, officials have taken the most conservative approach to reopening. Chula Vista continues to be the county’s second hardest hit city by the coronavirus pandemic accounting for 15% of San Diego County’s 6,140 COVID-19 cases. Health officials report there are 338 cases per 100,000 residents.

Though city officials said they will not delay the reopening of approved establishments as they did when the county was allowed to reopen parks and trails, the mayor is reminding the community to continue to adhere to social distancing and face covering requirements.

READ: Chula Vista parks, trails reopen with strict rules in effect

Many of Chula Vista’s essential businesses remained open during the county’s stay-at-order, but it wasn’t enough to lessen the blow to its economy. One city official estimated this year’s financial deficits to range between $5-8 million.

The reopening plan could help slightly lessen the financial impact felt across the community.

“Any establishment that can get back to business benefits the business, its employees, and the city’s tax base,” said Anne Steinberger, City of Chula Vista Marketing & Communications Manager.

Steinberger stresses that the city is following county guidelines and protocols. She says enforcement of the protocols will be done by Economic Development and Code Enforcement staff to educate business owners.

Chula Vista requires businesses to comply with strict social distancing and sanitation protocols including implementing a contact-free or regularly sanitized payment system, eliminating self-serve kiosks at restaurants, a crowd control plan, and require customers and employees to wear masks at all times.

“We offer free resources and information for all business in Chula Vista to help them reopen,” said Cohen, referring to the CV Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 section on its website. “We’re working with businesses using the guidelines of our 90-Day Economic Recovery Plan.”

That 90-day plan provides assistance in areas of finance, technology, marketing and promotion, as well as making changes to city policies to encourage commerce, and seeing the completion of projects in developing areas.

Cohen estimates over a thousand permits have thus far been issued in Chula Vista during the pandemic, and expected many more to apply for the operating protocol.

“We’re very proud. We were able to flatten the curve and we can start reopening our business,” said Cohen.

LINK: Economic Development Department: Social Distancing and Sanitation Protocol Application