San Diego County will submit plans to reopen Stage Two businesses under new criteria
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine welcomed a capacity crowd and a line out the door Monday as the first of four tribal casinos to open this week despite coronavirus stay-at-home rules keeping some other businesses shuttered.
Viejas and the other casinos are on tribal land, meaning they are not subject to the same state regulations that have limited other business operations in California. Sycuan Casino Resort plans to reopen Wednesday, Jamul Casino Thursday and Valley View Casino & Hotel Friday.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the county health department disagreed with the casinos’ timing but lacks jurisdiction to block the action.
Wooten said she reviewed the reopening plans for Sycuan, Vallew View and Jamul, but had not seen any such plan from Viejas. The three opening later this week had some limitations, such as bingo and poker remaining closed, restaurants operating for limited hours and gaming areas requiring appropriate spacing between players and staff. Patrons and staff also were to undergo temperature checks, wear masks at all times and practice physical distancing.
Videos taken by reporters and the public Monday at Viejas Casino showed a line outside the gambling establishment — which reportedly reached capacity by 11 a.m. Most of those in line outside appeared to wear masks and respect social distancing requirements.
In the meantime, San Diego County health officials reported 110 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths on Monday, raising the totals to 5,946 cases and 211 deaths.
At the same time — citing decreasing coronavirus hospitalization and ICU rates statewide — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a relaxation of restrictions that could allow more businesses to reopen more quickly in a majority of the state’s counties. Newsom also said that if the current trends continue, the state may be able to significantly ease restrictions statewide in the next few weeks.
Officials in many parts of the state — including San Diego — have been pushing to reopen more sectors of their economies. Local officials, including San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher have pointed to what they viewed as unrealistic benchmarks counties needed to meet to accelerate business reopenings. One of those guidelines mandated that counties have no deaths from COVID-19 for a two-week period, which Fletcher said would “never happen” with a county the population of San Diego unless vaccinations or other therapeutic treatments became widespread.
At Monday’s daily County press briefing, KUSI News followed up on Supervisor Jim Desmond’s finding that there are only 6 purely COVID-19 deaths in San Diego County.
KUSI News asked, “last Friday you said, ‘the short answer is no’ when asked if you would allow businesses to reopen ahead of schedule with strict safety protocols. Today, Governor Newsom said he is empowering local health officials to decide on allowing businesses to reopen ahead of schedule. Plus, Supervisor Desmond says the data shows there are only 6 purely coronavirus deaths in San Diego county. Is that true and will you now allow businesses to reopen ahead of schedule or are you still completely against allowing it?”
Wooten confirmed that it is true, but said “the six that do not have underlying medical conditions are not more significant than the other deaths.”
Wooten’s complete answer to the question is below:
The looser restrictions announced by Newsom include requirements that counties have no more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a seven-day period, have no more than an 8% positive rate among people tested for coronavirus and have 15 trained patient-contact-tracing workers per 100,000 population.
The governor said he was encouraged by recent statewide statistics that have shown a 7.5% decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations over the past two weeks, an 8.7% decline in intensive-care unit patients in that same period and an “unprecedented number of masks” and other personal protective equipment being distributed throughout the state.
Fletcher posted a response to Newsom’s revisions on Twitter.
“Today, Governor Newsom revised guidance to allow counties to move into Stage 2 (of the reopening plan). We believe we meet the requirements and will get an update from our public health officer at tomorrow’s board meeting. This would allow in-person dining and in-person retail (under state guidance),” he wrote.
Newsom also announced a $125 million state relief program to provide financial assistance to undocumented immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic. Fletcher said the Jewish Family Service of San Diego would oversee both San Diego and Imperial counties’ Immigrant Disaster Relief Fund.
Applicants for the disaster relief fund locally may apply for a one- time sum of $500. A household will be limited to $1,000. Interested applicants should call 858-206-8291 to get more information.
On a side note, KUSI News has been asked by some golf instructors around San Diego County why they aren’t allowed to go back to work yet. Instruction has been approved to resume in both Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, but San Diego County health officials have not approved it here. In response, Dr. Wooten said, “well it’s, we first started, and we were leaning forward, even with the, when you have instruction there is more touching of items, the balls, the golf clubs, so um, it’s not currently on our allowable, but it will be considered as we advance through Stage 2 and into Stage 3.”