By Sandra G. Leon
San Diego County health officials have announced that the region can start moving into a broader re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, including allowing restaurants to serve dine-in patrons, barbers shops and hair salons to open, and churches and other places of worship to hold services but only at 25% capacity for now.
The loosened restrictions come as California Governor Gavin Newson announced all but 10 of the state’s counties could move to an enhanced Phase Two reopening of the economy that first included restaurants and retail stores.
Barbershops and hair salons must ensure that all employees pass body temperature tests before and after each work shift and that employees and customers wear masks during the entire visit. For now, eyebrow threading, eyelash work, and face shaves are prohibited. Shops must also complete the county’s reopening plan, posted it publicly, and given copies to employees. Nail salons were not allowed to reopen under this new phase.
Under the revised guidelines, churches and places of worship must limit their attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever 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.
Churches and places of worship must also continue social distancing of at least 6 feet between people, create COVID-19 prevention plans for every location, train their staff, and regularly evaluate their locations for compliance. The new restriction also prohibit singing, touching, and passing of items between attendees.
Some church leaders had threatened to reopen their facilities even if restrictions were not lifted. Last week, more than 1,200 pastors and clergy from across California sent a letter to Governor Newsom saying they planned to resume in-person services May 31, regardless of state restrictions.
Three Southern California churches sued Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials last month, arguing that social distancing orders violate their 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly. The reopening now basically nullifies their lawsuit.
County health officials reported 85 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The county total is now 6,882 cases but no new deaths have been reported in three days, keeping the total for COVID-19 deaths at 249.
As of this week, more than 140,000 tests have been performed in the county.
Although San Diego County and California as a whole as moving toward reopening, neither has met the CDC requirements set out for states to reopen. Two weeks ago, the CDC and the Trump Administration announced guidelines for states to meet before they could reopen, including 14 days of a downward trajectory of new COVID-19 cases. No state has met that requirement nonetheless, nearly all states have moved forward with reopening their economies.