The county will not be moving back to the more restrictive tier of the state’s reopening plan for now. On Tuesday, state was set to make a decision on whether or not Riverside County should go back to the ‘purple’. The county has had a steady increase of COVID-19 cases and been teetering on the edge of the threshold.
Dr. Mark Ghali, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services announced in the daily COVID update they granted the county’s request for a reprieve to discuss the data, “If the county does move back, we recognize how important is for the county, for communities, for the businesses and for all the people,” adding that discussions should not take longer than a week.
Jose Arballo, the county’s senior public health information officer says they made the request for the adjudication on Monday, “Obviously the favorable thing that happened is that the state at least granted us that without moving us back to purple.”
Right now the county has a COVID-19 case rate of 8.1 per 100,000 people, with the adjusted state rate of 9.2. The rate must be lower than 7 to remain in the ‘red’ less restrictive tier.
“But we’re hoping that in this week that we can turn some of the numbers around and get them headed in the right direction as we talk to the state,” says Arballo.
The county had only entered the red tier on September 22, 2020 allowing restaurants, places of worship, gyms, movie theaters and personal care like nail salons, indoor operations at lower capacity. (Salons and barber shops are allowed under the restrictive purple tier).
Kenny Pham, who manages Luxury Nails and Spa in Palm Desert says they are finally back up and running after being shut down twice since the pandemic started, he fears another shutdown may be permanent, “We used to have about 12 people working over here, now we have only five … we’re just worried we might close for good and this business is two years old.”
But it’s not just hard for new businesses.
Michael Castelli, owner Castelli’s Italian Restaurant, a Palm Desert institution for over three decades says he’s fortunate to have a loyal following but this period of limbo is affecting business decisions, “Season is supposed to come soon so we were going to hire more people for the season but then again if it goes to purple then we don’t need to hire more people, we just have less hours for the people.”
Castelli feels for many in his industry who don’t have the outdoor dining option and will struggle if we go back, “They’re going to have to close up again and that really is going to destroy a lot of little restaurants and I feel bad.”
The county is urging county residents to get tested whether they have symptoms or not, because this will be key to lowering our adjusted case rate. They are also asking people to continue to do their part and follow the safety guidelines of wearing masks, maintaining space, not attending large gatherings and frequent hand washing.
Arballo says people have the power to impact this decision and can’t emphasize enough the importance of testing, “I understand that people might be tired of all of this COVID-19 talk they’re getting what we call COVID fatigue, they don’t want to hear about it anymore, they don’t want to get tested but it really is for the benefit of all of us.”
County testing is free.
To make an appointment to get tested and find a location near you click here: GET TESTED RIV CO