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San Diego County leaders vote unanimously to adopt framework to reopen businesses

The framework offers guidelines on employee and customer safety, sanitation, physical distancing, and general business practices and communications.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted Tuesday to adopt a framework to reopen some non-essential businesses in a safe manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The framework offers guidelines on employee and customer safety, sanitation, physical distancing, and general business practices and communications when they are permitted to reopen their doors. It does not contain a timeline on when specific businesses can reopen their doors.

The first businesses in Phase 2 of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four phase plan will be allowed to reopen Friday for curbside pickup only. Book, clothing, toy and sporting good stores offer the service once they create a safety plan.

Newsom said he expects to allow counties flexibility, but would not say what that could look like, which caused some confusion among business owners.

“This is not an easy decision and it's a confusing time for everybody, but for a business owner, this is what it is. So am I going to be open for the public? If so, when? Is it Phase 2, is it Phase 2.5? These are the questions,” said Fred Princen, who owns Play it Again Sports in San Diego.

Princen closed his three stores almost two months ago. He has been selling items online but is looking forward to reopening his doors to customers, which he’s hoping the county may allow when the governor unveils his plan Thursday.

“The governor said there could be additional flexibility provided to counties to move a little further in Phase 2. We do not yet have what those conditions need to be, nor do we have what those entities might be that would be able to reopen,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “When we get them, we’ll be in a better position to know if we as a county are going to be able to qualify.”

County leaders passed their framework plan in anticipation of the governor’s announcement. They urged all businesses included in Phase 2 to start working on their safety plan so they can quickly reopen once allowed. The Public Health Officer will make the final determination whether it is safe enough to reopen a type of business. Businesses are then required to complete and post a safety plan but are not required to submit it to the county for approval.

“If Friday we have to open, I think it's a work in progress and the work we'll get there, but it will take a little time for everybody to adjust,” predicted Princen.

Some retailers may find it difficult to reopen by the end of the week. Most laid off their entire workforce, some of whom may have taken jobs elsewhere or may not want to work in an environment where they must work directly with the public. Princen is trying to get additional sanitizer and equipment to protect his employees, which may be difficult to obtain on short notice and could delay an eventual reopening.

The plan includes five focus areas and a checklist of corresponding actions, which have been recommended by the RECOVER Advisory Group with input from County Public Health officials. 

They include: 

  • Employee health
  • Safe worksite entry
  • Workplace distancing and conditions
  • Employee training and compliance
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation

In consultation with the RECOVER Advisory Group, the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will vote on a Business Safety Framework that businesses must follow to reopen once state restrictions are lifted. Every business will need to demonstrate how it can operate safely in compliance with state and county requirements.

The RECOVER Advisory Group also provided enhanced guidance specific to various industries, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Wellness and spa facilities
  • Attractions and tourism
  • Commercial real estate
  • Construction
  • Hospitality

These industry-specific strategies are in various stages of development, pending final clearance from appropriate public health agencies.

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