Indoor rules changing in S.D. County: Nail and hair salons can reopen; restaurants can seat 25% of capacity

San Diego County restaurants will be allowed to operate indoors at up to 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less.
San Diego County restaurants will be allowed to operate indoors at up to 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less.

Hours after Gov. Gavin Newsom released a new system for the state that sorts counties into one of four tiers based on the extent of their coronavirus spread, San Diego County officials announced Aug. 28 that some businesses would be able to operate indoors in a limited capacity starting Monday, Aug. 31.

Restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums will be allowed to maintain up to 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less. Gyms may operate with 10% occupancy. Hair salons, barbershops and nail salons may operate indoors with normal capacity.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the county would follow state guidelines that indicate retail businesses are to be restricted to 50% occupancy.

All indoor businesses must still abide by social distancing and face-covering mandates, as well as having a detailed Safe Reopening Plan on file with the county.

Wooten does not have the power to lessen the new state requirements, though she could make them more restrictive.

Wooten said San Diego County is in Tier 2, meaning “substantial” coronavirus activity. But unlike Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles and Imperial counties, it is not considered “widespread,” or Tier 1.

On Friday, the state released a new “tiered framework” that will control the reopening pace statewide. Tiers are defined by the number of cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of new positive tests reported in each county. Counties must spend at least 21 days in each tier, and must meet the thresholds for the next tier for 14 consecutive days in order to move up. The state will update tier numbers every Tuesday.

Aug. 28, 2020

The two metrics the state is monitoring in the tier list include an old one — the percentage of positive tests — and a new one — the number of daily new cases per 100,000 people. San Diego County is at 3.8% in the former and 5.8 in the latter. To make it to the next tier, “moderate,” the county must show rates of between 2% and 4.9% positive tests and between 1 and 3.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population.

Because the county currently exceeds one of those numbers, it cannot start its path to the next tier.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he felt the county was moving too quickly to reopen and should take a more measured response.

“My concerns are with the size, scope and speed of what is being reopened on Monday,” he said. “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.

“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.”

According to Wooten, there is a 21-day mandatory wait time before any county can move between tiers, and a county must meet the metrics for the next tier for two consecutive weeks. A county may move only one tier at a time.