Several San Diego County businesses to reopen indoors with limits under new guidance

Virus Outbreak Testing Guidelines
Posted at 3:39 PM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 20:03:05-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Several business sectors will be cleared to reopen indoor activities with modifications next week in San Diego County under the state's new guidance, according to local health officials.

Under California's new blueprint for reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, starting Monday, Aug. 31, San Diego County can reopen indoor operations at the following businesses with modifications:

  • Restaurants for dine-in, places of worship, museums, and movie theaters at a maximum of 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less;
  • Gyms, yoga studios, and fitness centers at a maximum of 10% capacity;
  • Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, and body waxing studios;
  • Libraries and bookstores at a maximum of 50% capacity;
  • Shopping malls at a maximum of 50% capacity, with closed common areas, and reduced food court capacity;
  • Aquariums and zoos at a maximum of 25% capacity

Businesses that have been reopened under their safe reopening plans may have to be modified to meet the state's new percentages on capacity, according to Gary Johnston, the county's Chief Resiliency Officer on Reopening.

"The safe reopening plans, you need to modify those and express on those plans how you're going to adhere to the requirements that came out with the state," Johnston said.

California's new rules for reopening are based on a four-tier, color-coded system that counties will move through based on their number of cases (case rate) and the percentage of positive tests. The system replaces the state's monitoring list.

Based on the state’s new tool, San Diego County is in the red "Substantial" tier. The red tier covers counties with a case rate of four to seven daily new cases per 100,000 people and 5% to 8% positive tests. The county's case rate was 5.8 and its positive rate was 3.8% as of Friday, according to county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

More detailed information by county and business type can be found at

The reopening of K-12 schools is not impacted by the new system, Wooten said.

Under the new guidance, some businesses may see more restrictive limits on indoor activities. California's guidance for grocery and retail stores requires indoor operations to be limited to 50% capacity with modifications.

"There are some outbreaks that we see in retail. So by decreasing the capacity this will help with increased risk and increased exposure," Wooten said. "We are following what's on the website ... as it relates to what's being recommended for tier two."

Bars, breweries, and distilleries that do not serve food are still not cleared to reopen for indoor operations, according to the state. Theme parks are also not permitted to reopen.

Wooten cautioned that the success of reopening any indoor operations this time around depends on compliance with the guidance and locals being safe.

"This time what we hope will happen, but it relies on people's behavior, is that as we are opening up 25% or 50% of capacity, not full 100%," Wooten said. "As we see issues people should also be clear that we will shut down entities if they are not following the guidelines and if there are particularly outbreaks occurring as a result of not following those non-pharmaceutical strategies."

In order for San Diego County to move up a tier, it must stay in tier two for at least three weeks. Then to move up, it must meet the next tier's criteria for two consecutive weeks. If the county's metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks, it will be moved to a more restrictive tier.

In a statement, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who serves on the county's COVID-19 taskforce, said he fears the reopenings are too much at the same time:

"I believe we should take a more cautious and safe approach to re-opening than what was outlined today. My concerns are with the size, scope and speed of what is being reopened on Monday. While there are some lower risk entities that could safely reopen at this point, what we are doing is very similar to what we did in June with a large segment of indoor operations all opening at the same time. This led to a large increase in cases and required new restrictions.

At the same time we are moving forward on these reopenings we are trying to give schools a chance to start again and have college students returning to campus. I believe our focus now should be on a narrow section of low risk entities and doing everything we can to support our schools.

Additionally, we are struggling as a region in having successful enforcement and compliance and continue to see elected leaders, including the El Cajon Mayor, advocate against following public health orders. My fear is that the breadth and speed of what we are doing could cause a spike in cases that would trigger us moving back to a higher state tier and requiring additional closures. I would prefer a more cautious approach that gives us a higher probability of a smooth and steady recovery.

But even though I prefer a different path, the decision has been made and I will continue to work tirelessly to help us find a way to slow the spread, support our schools, and continue to help our community through this difficult time."