REGION — As Congress continues moving forward with charting out financial aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s local governments await word from the state on when segments of the economy can begin to reopen.
On April 29, Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) hosted San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Dr. Karl Steinberg, a nursing facility and hospice medical director in North County, during his weekly virtual town hall to update the public on where things stand with the pandemic.
“The efforts we have taken have been very successful,” Fletcher said.
If significant changes to daily life were not made at the start of the pandemic, Fletcher said, county officials were looking at models that projected as many as 300,000 residents needing hospital rooms when there was only 4,000 total hospital rooms in the county at the time.
Fletcher said he is encouraged to see flattening trends in the number of cases the county has. He noted that while the daily testing numbers may be rising, the more important number is the number of positive tests as a percentage of the total amount of people tested.
There are just over 3,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Diego County with 118 deaths.
According to Steinberg, the county will likely see a rise in the number of positive cases due to the rise in tests that are being administered.
“We’re doing great and we really appreciate the fact that people are willing to make this sacrifice,” Steinberg said, referring to the stay-at-home health orders.
Both Fletcher and Steinberg emphasized that they do not want to see a second wave, something that the county officials are taking into consideration going forward.
“We would be throwing away all of the sacrifice that has been made and all of the effort that has been taken if we just went back to normal,” Fletcher said.
In late April, the county gave cities the power to decide if and when to reopen beaches. Since then, North County cities such as Encinitas and Oceanside have reopened their beaches under limited use restrictions while Del Mar, Solana Beaches and Carlsbad aim to reopen next week.
Fletcher said the supervisors are looking into lifting restrictions on boating next.
“We’re trying to move forward slowly and thoughtfully,” Fletcher said.
In regards to reopening businesses and the economy, Fletcher said the county is following a statewide order from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
On April 28, Newsom outlined his phased reopening plan to include four stages. California is currently in the first stage, which is following the stay-at-home and flattening the curve. The second stage involves lifting restrictions on some lower-risk workplaces like retail, manufacturing, offices and childcare centers.
The third stage involves reopening personal care businesses like gyms, spas and salons; sports without live crowds; in-person religious services and movie theaters. This stage is “months away,” according to the governor.
The fourth stage would be the end of the stay-at-home order and would include reopening convention centers, sports with live crowds and concerts.
Since the beginning of March, four bills addressing the public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have been signed into law.
One of those bills was the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.2 trillion bill that provided economic assistance to workers, small businesses and state and local governments.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), one of the responses to the pandemic, was originally allocated $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses but ran out of funds in less than two weeks. The Small Business Administration, which administers the PPP program, began accepting new applications for an additional $310 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses.
Of that amount, $60 billion has been set aside to be disbursed by small banks and community lenders to make sure smaller businesses are not cut out by larger companies and lenders.
Levin said the federal government is already discussing a “part two” of the CARES Act. The congressman wants to see local and state governments get more assistance to recover from loss of revenues, particularly cities with under 500,000 people like those in North County.
For now, Fletcher asks that San Diego County residents be patient.
“We are asking incredibly difficult things both around staying at home, around not having the normal access that we all love and enjoy to our beaches and parks… it’s having a tremendous impact on the economy, on mental health, on spiritual health and on physical health, but it is being done out of a desire to save lives,” Fletcher said. “It is done out of a desire to protect our way of life, to protect one another, so the sacrifices that have been made have been worth it.”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son