REGION — Supervisor Jim Desmond says it’s time for San Diego businesses to reopen — but to do so with public health and safety in mind.
While Desmond believes businesses can open safely beyond curbside pickup, he says Gov. Gavin Newsom’s criteria of zero COVID-19 related deaths for 14 consecutive days is unattainable for large counties such as San Diego.
“We’ll never reach this,” Desmond told The Coast News. “This is just going to strangle businesses in San Diego County.”
The governor’s criterion prompted Desmond and Supervisor Kristin Gaspar to send Gov. Newsom a letter to reconsider the reopening requirements for businesses and allow for more flexibility.
“We are almost at 27% unemployment, and businesses are just shutting down daily at this point. They can’t hold on any longer,” Desmond said.
Desmond agrees businesses should reopen in phases and in compliance with enhanced health guidelines, such as social distancing, facial coverings, gloves, and constant handwashing.
“I’m all in favor of abiding by the safety guidelines, but we need to get the economy back,” Desmond said. “We did flatten the curve, we did reduce the trends, we are getting our numbers (COVID-19) down, and we have excess capacity in our hospitals for a surge.”
To date, Desmond has not received a response from the governor regarding the letter, but he has received feedback from people all over the county, including various chambers of commerce, encouraging his efforts to push for a safe reopening of businesses.
“People are getting antsy,” Desmond said. “People are frustrated with the fact that you can buy whatever you want in Wal-Mart, like a bicycle, but your family bicycle shop can’t be open. You can buy baked goods at Costco, but you can’t go to your local bakery.”
While the letter to Gov. Newsom received praise, it’s also received a share of criticisms, such as health risks of opening up businesses too fast and triggering a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
“We want to reopen safely,” Desmond said. “We don’t want to get so far out on a limb that if we do have a resurgence or a second wave that we’re not too far off that we can’t retreat safely. When we closed down everything but the essential businesses, we flattened the curve and stopped the trend while those essential businesses were open.
“We can continue using those same parameters and tools they did with wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitizing for other businesses to open to keep their employees and customers safe — we’ve proven that we can have businesses open under those guidelines and still lower the trend.”
Desmond also has serious concerns that more people will be dependent upon the government for unemployment, face food insecurity, and unable to pay their rent if their jobs no longer exist.
Additionally, mental health and wellness are issues also weighing on his mind.
“We were dealing with behavioral health before this crisis that was primarily with the homeless and needed services,” Desmond said. “Now, a lot of angst and anxiety in our culture is over a lack of money for their families and kids.
“I had a person call in, and he was crying on the phone because he’s got two little kids and a third on the way, and he just started a new job in January. He’s out of work and sees no end in sight on how he is going to provide for his family.”
A total of 3.3 million residents live in San Diego County. According to Desmond, as of May 12, 88,097 were tested for Covid-19, and 5,278 individuals tested positive.
From those 5,278 individuals, 63 percent of them had already undergone their 14-day isolation period. A total of 194 people passed away, and from that number, 97 percent of those that died had underlying health issues.
Desmond went on to say that based on this data, San Diegans can find a compromise in opening up businesses. However, he was quick to point out that the opening of businesses is not going to be a free-for-all. Instead, it would be a measured opening over time, making sure people were staying safe.
“I think it’s very important for the health of our population and economy that people get back to work,” said Desmond. “We’re going to have more behavioral and health issues if we don’t act on this very soon.”