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Supervisors Hear COVID-19 Update, Vote To Expand Business Relief Program

Empty tables inside the restaurant Common Theory in Kearny Mesa. Dec. 6, 2020.
Alexander Nguyen
Empty tables inside the restaurant Common Theory in Kearny Mesa. Dec. 6, 2020.

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to make San Diego County's $20 million Small Business Stimulus Grant program available to all businesses affected by COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Supervisors voted to provide that small business relief via teleconference after hearing an update on the county's efforts to combat the spread of the virus as well as information about future vaccine distribution. They also heard from numerous businesses owners angry over the newest state restrictions mandated by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Supervisors Hear COVID-19 Update, Vote To Expand Business Relief Program
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

The restrictions, which went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, were triggered when intensive-care unit bed availability remained below 15% after Saturday's daily update, according to the California Department of Public Health. New infections and hospitalizations from the coronavirus have surged in San Diego County, which reported its third-highest daily total of COVID-19 cases on Monday with 1,998.

VIDEO: Business Owners Adapt To New Pandemic Restrictions, Ask San Diegans To Shop Local

It was the seventh consecutive day with more than 1,000 new cases and the 15th time in the last 18 days. A record 2,287 infections were reported Friday. The cases reported Monday bring the county's cumulative total to 94,169.

No new deaths were reported Monday with the total remaining at 1,062.

The county has received nearly $390 million in federal CARES Act funding to help residents and businesses since the pandemic started earlier this year.


Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who proposed expanding the business aid, said in a written statement that he understands the impact a regional stay-at- home order has all business owners, and "expanding this economic stimulus program will provide bridge funding to support them and their workers while the restrictions to slow the spread are in place."

Fletcher, who also serves as co-chair of the county's COVID-19 subcommittee, said during the meeting that he also understands that people are frustrated by restrictions, but "when we go from 200 to 2,000 cases a day, we have to change what we're doing."

One of those frustrated business owners is North Park Beer Co. founder Kelsey McNair. “It’s incredibly expensive to try and operate in this environment,” he told KPBS.

Just last week, McNair put in a patio off University Ave. Under the new restrictions, it’s now collecting dust.

“We were only able to use it for a few days,” he said.

McNair said he will comply with the most recent restrictions, but with restaurants seemingly bearing the brunt, he is asking for help.

“I don't want to fight any orders,” he said. “What I would really like to see is more help from the local state and federal government as far as financial relief goes.”

While the supervisors are offering financial relief, health officials are awaiting relief through a vaccine.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public officer, told the board that the state of California is anticipating 327,000 doses of a COVID vaccine in mid December, with San Diego County expected to receive 28,275 doses in the state's first round of distribution.

"I'm encouraged that our way forward will be seen with vaccinations to (create) herd immunity," she added. As she has at other county meetings, Wooten again urged residents to follow guidelines, including washing hands and maintain social distancing.

"We can flatten the curve again," she added.

"We can come out of this in a way that saves lives."

Many residents who called in during the update's public comment period voiced their frustrations over how the restrictions are harming them, their families and businesses.

Paula Steger, co-owner of Artistic Laser Productions, said while it's important for everybody to wear a mask and wash their hands, it's also " time to go about your daily lives."

She said her business lost $60,000 worth of contracts this year because of restrictions.

"I was 7 when the Hong Kong flu hit," Steger said. "The world didn't shut down then, and we got through it. I'm done. I'm going to work wherever I can in a COVID-safe manner."