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San Diego County increases daily testing numbers, stresses safety guidelines as restaurants reopen

The county's request to move further into Stage 2 of the state's reopening plan was approved Wednesday night.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County health officials held a news conference to discuss COVID-19 cases and the state's approval of San Diego County's move further into Stage 2 reopening, allowing dine-in restaurants and in-store retail businesses, with modifications. San Diego County has received word that California approved its request to allow dining at restaurants and in-store shopping, both with social distancing restrictions.

The county's request to move further into Stage 2 of the state's reopening plan was approved Wednesday night.

“It’s also a huge morale boost,” said Chairman Greg Cox.

However, the actual reopening of restaurants and shops cannot begin until businesses fill out the county's Safe Reopening Plan form and post it publicly, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a tweet Wednesday night. Some businesses did so and were able to reopen with modifications on Thursday morning. 

“We must continue taking safeguards,” said Cox. “Let’s not lose our hard-earned gains."

Eating out will look different. At restaurants, there will be no self-service, like soda foundations or salad bars. Restaurants must encourage reservations and expand outdoor seating. There will be temperature and symptom checks for employees daily. Employees must wear face coverings and customers must wear them too, unless they’re seated. Tables and chairs will be spaced apart.

“The dining experience will definitely be different, no doubt,” said Jeff Rossman, president of the San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

Rossman said the "new normal" for dining will include table seating in outdoor parking lots and social distancing stickers and signs. Customers should wait in their cars until their table is ready. 

Rossman stressed that the industry is taking a safety-first approach. 

“Want to encourage people to take their time to go out to restaurants,” said Rossman.

The county also sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday night asking him to approve a pilot program for Phase 3. If approved, it could allow for the reopening of certain facilities, including youth and sports clubs, salons, fitness clubs and outdoor religious services. However, Fletcher asked San Diegans to remain patient on Thursday. 

“We need to take a pause. We need to successfully implement stage two,” said Fletcher. 

Fletcher reiterated that gyms, salons, hotels, and religious services are still not open in San Diego County, but that Newsom has alluded that these will be allowed sometime in early June. 

“Let’s do this right. Let’s stay safe,” said Fletcher.

“It doesn’t mean that we should be complacent,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten said of San Diego's success in not overwhelming the healthcare system.

San Diego County completed 4,722 COVID-19 tests on Wednesday alone. The county has confirmed 6,315 positive cases of COVID-19 countywide and 11 new deaths, bringing the countywide death total to 241.

Fletcher said the county now has more than 300 contact tracers.

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