May 22, 2020 — A new shelter in place order allows the county to enter phase 2.5 of the limited reopening, one minute before midnight tonight. The state approved attestation paperwork filed earlier this week, which means the county can adapt aspects of stage 2 of the state’s roadmap more quickly than those parts of the state that have been harder hit. The latest order gives the go-ahead to limited in-person shopping at non-essential but low-risk retail establishments, on-site dining, preventive dental care, and expanded childrens’ activities. Car dealerships, manufacturing and construction concerns, and office spaces can also fill out a self-certification form on the county’s website, attesting that their business has social distancing and sanitation protocols in place.
Gyms, salons, lodging, bars and tasting rooms, tattoo parlors and entertainment venues remain shut down. Still, Katrina Kessen, the Executive Director of the Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance, knows how she feels about the new order.
“This is a huge step for us. It means that downtown can find its opening again, which will be a big breath of fresh air,” she said. “Especially these small Mom and Pop places are going to be able to open their doors, and they’ve just been waiting for that moment. So I am very, very excited for that opportunity for them.”
The three Chambers of Commerce and the cities of Ukiah, Fort Bragg, and Willits have been active in the lovelocalmendo campaign, encouraging anyone who can to shop online at locally owned businesses.
Ron Moorhead is the Executive Director/CEO of the Willits Chamber of Commerce. Yesterday afternoon, he described the process that business owners must undergo if they want to participate in the limited reopening. He said that two restaurant owners had told him they had already been approved, but that approval could take 12-24 hours.
Business owners will have to visit the site to fill out a safe practices checklist and worksheet, then go through a self-certification as to how well they meet the requirements to maintain social distancing, establish sanitation protocols, educate their employees, and make sure everyone who comes into the establishment is wearing facial coverings. The document is submitted online, and when it’s approved, the business owner prints it out as proof. “Basically this is a program or a procedure to help businesses do it with very little interference or very little time, so they can do it quickly,” said Moorhead. “Generally it should come back very quickly, with the approval. It’s a certificate to say that you are able to open.” There are no fees, but businesses do have to include their business license number on the application.
As part of its attestation paperwork, the county had to show that it has a clear plan for what to do if conditions worsen, which could include reinstituting restrictions. But the approved form states that the county is well within the required containment of the epidemiological stability of the disease, which means the number of cases is relatively low and can be swiftly contained. There have also been no deaths from the virus, and, according to the form, personal protective equipment here is readily available With the testing site opening tomorrow in Carl Purdy Hall at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah, the county will be able to exceed 300 tests a day. There are 24 contact tracers in the county, 16 of them trained by the California Rural Indian Health Board, two of them bilingual Spanish and English speakers. The approved attestation form says the county has gotten hotel rooms for 199 at risk homeless people. Jason Wells, the CEO of Adventist Health in Mendocino County, attached a letter of support saying the local hospitals could accommodate a minimum surge of 35% due to covid-19, while continuing to care for non-covid patients.
But with all that, will people feel safe or flush enough, to venture out?
“What I would love to see,” said Kessen, “is just this huge, massive shop local movement, with people in masks, and spatially distanced from one another, coming out to the stores and places that we love. But what I really think realistically that’s going to happen is, it’s going to be a gradual process. People have varying degrees of comfort when it comes to being out in public at all...Both on the spend side, but also just on the very practical side of comfort and how do people feel about having the opportunity to go into their favorite small store? It’ll be very interesting to watch.”