SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Two more tribal casinos will reopen Friday and more restaurants and shops will open their doors for in-person service, as San Diego County steps cautiously into expanded Phase 2 reopenings.
California approved the county's request Wednesday night to allow dining at restaurants and in-store shopping, both with social-distancing restrictions.
Elected officials and business leaders alike showed optimism Thursday afternoon, but also cautioned San Diegans to be patient as the new normal fits into place.
Even as the more than 16,000 restaurants and food-service facilities across the region gained the ability to reopen, county health officials reported 175 COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths, raising the county totals to 6,315 cases and 241 deaths.
Restaurants and shops must fill out the county's Safe Reopening Plan form and post it publicly to reopen, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a tweet Wednesday night.
Some restaurants and shops completed this form ahead of time and are able to open today.
Some of the guidelines restaurants must adhere to include having tables six feet apart, having temperature screening of employees, requiring facial coverings on employees at all times and on customers unless they are seated, and encouraging reservations.
Retail stores have similar restrictions, including limiting the number of shoppers in stores to maintain social distancing and requiring facial coverings for employees and customers at all times.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that while the county tried to answer many of the broad questions from business owners and customers, it was impossible to foresee every scenario. He encouraged those with questions to call the county's 211 number.
Jeff Rossman, president of the San Diego branch of the California Restaurant Association, urged diners to be patient with businesses, who were doing everything they could with limited supplies, information and staff.
"We encourage people to take their time," he said, noting he would open his own two restaurants the first week of June. "Please don't come in if you're sick. Please be courteous, comply with signage and give yourselves extra time to comply. We've seen the long lines at casinos reopening, we don't want people queuing. Wait in your car if possible until your table is ready."
Of the 11 deaths reported Thursday, the ages ranged from 51 to 100 and occurred between May 14 and May 20, said the county public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten.
The county recorded 4,722 COVID-19 tests Wednesday, for 120,559 cumulative tests. The 175 positive cases represent just 4% of all tests reported Wednesday, just above the region's 14-day average of 3.6% positive.
Wooten reported 73 active outbreaks in the county, 50 of which occurred in congregate living facilities which could be traced to 1,391 cases -- 22% of all the county's COVID-19 cases -- and 119 deaths.
Valley View Casino & Hotel and Harrah's Resort Southern California will both reopen with restrictions Friday.
Jamul Casino reopened its doors Thursday, Sycuan reopened Wednesday and Viejas Casino and Resort reopened Monday.
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Restrictions at all five casinos include bingo and poker remaining closed, restaurants operating for limited hours and gaming areas requiring social distancing between players and staff.
Tables games will be limited to a maximum of three players per table and every other slot machine will be turned off to further encourage space between players.
Patrons and staff will also be required to undergo temperature checks, wear masks at all times and practice physical distancing.
All five casinos are on tribal land, meaning they are not subject to the same state regulations that have limited most business operations in California.