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Judge Denies Request From San Diego Businesses To Resume Indoor Operations

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A judge Monday denied a request from four San Diego County businesses seeking to resume indoor operations following the county's recent slide into the purple tier of the state's coronavirus reopening plan.

Speaker 1: 00:01 To San Diego restaurants and two local gyms have lost their bid to have purple tier restrictions lifted. The businesses, asked a San Diego judge for a temporary restraining order to allow them to resume indoor operations. But judge Kenneth Madell ruled yesterday that the restrictions appear quote to have general support in science and reason. He denied the request even while acknowledging the economic harm. The closures are inflicting. Joining me is KPBS reporter max Revlin Nadler, max. Welcome. Hi. Now tell us about the businesses filing this lawsuit and what they hope to achieve.

Speaker 2: 00:40 So the businesses filing the lawsuit include the gyms and the restaurants. One is a CrossFit gym. The others are a bar restaurant. All of them had gone along with the previous restrictions involving, um, lower occupancy, social distancing, wearing masks, things like that. Um, but they decided that when it came to the purple tier, which would, uh, in the Jim's case bar, all indoor operations and for the restaurant's case, make them move entirely outdoors that this was actually a bridge too far for them at this moment. And that basically because no widespread, um, outbreaks had occurred at their establishment, there was no reason for them to close.

Speaker 1: 01:19 So is there arguing against the purple tier restrictions that they're challenging the idea that indoor operations threaten public health?

Speaker 2: 01:28 Yeah, so they actually went back and looked at the record and saw what the County health department was saying, especially dr. Wilma Wooten, his own words where she said, you know, the spread as of a few weeks ago was not coming out of restaurants in gyms. It was coming out of a social gatherings. It was coming out of large parties. It was coming out of people having to keep going back to work. Um, and that basically restaurants and gyms at that time could stay open. Obviously things changed, uh, because the spread really precipitously took off at the beginning of November. And now as we're seeing record numbers, um, the state obviously feels the need to start dialing back. What's allowed, even if they can't point at restaurants in gyms, specifically, they know from science that basically these places, when you have this amount of spread really become major vectors.

Speaker 1: 02:24 And I suppose that in essence is the state's argument in support of keeping indoor operations closed.

Speaker 2: 02:31 Yeah. I mean the state right now is an untrodden territory. The pandemic has never been worse even during our summer. Uh, you know, kind of, that was the first wave in California during the summer. Uh, you'd never saw something, uh, with the numbers that we're seeing now and the amount of spread that's happening. So the state, again, purple tier I think is kind of the beginning of the steps that they're going to be taken, but there's more on the horizon. As we see a case numbers continue increase and hospitals begin to fill up the judge in this case basically, um, acknowledged that under, you know, regular times this would be an undue burden on the businesses, but because of the extraordinary times that we're living in that the County is going to have to make tough decisions about what's allowed to operate.

Speaker 1: 03:20 What's the next step in this legal battle.

Speaker 2: 03:23 This was just for a temporary restraining order to make sure that the purple tier restrictions are appealed back. Now, the plaintiffs are entitled to a hearing on a preliminary injunction, and that's something that the judge even during the hearing showed that they were interested in having well, basically continue to hear as the pandemic progresses, why these need to be rolled back for these businesses and basically set precedent for a challenge against the state's orders statewide. The judge was not closing the door on the fact that the pandemic could take a different path that, you know, basically more science could come in about these places, not being as serious effectors as County health administrators believe that they are, but, uh, you know, because they denied the temporary restraining order. It's a pretty high bar they're going to have to pass to get that preliminary injunction. And it remains to be seen whether the, um, restaurants will continue their legal battle against these restrictions. I know, you know, one restaurant involved hasn't set up for outdoor dining at all, and that leaves them in a really bad place economically. And these lawsuits take money.

Speaker 1: 04:27 This lawsuit was over the suspension of indoor operations for businesses like restaurants and gyms, but case rates are rising so fast in Los Angeles, that city is restricting outdoor dining and workouts. Can you talk to us a little bit about this? Yeah,

Speaker 2: 04:42 Like I was saying before, I think there are a lot more restrictions in the pipeline, right? Because one thing that these plaintiffs were arguing was that businesses like retail stores are still allowed to operate in doors. And these are non-essential businesses, you know, clothing stores, general retail, and they feel like this is unfair, but I don't know how long that's going to last for. Especially when places like Los Angeles and San Francisco are beginning to look into stricter restrictions, ending things like outdoor dining ending outdoor workouts. I mean, you could go around San Diego gyms that have transitioned to outdoor, um, working out they're still very close to each other. Uh, and the science is still not necessarily sure when you have this amount of widespread, uh, coronavirus. This is unprecedented, right? So, uh, County health administrators are trying to keep up with this as much as possible.

Speaker 2: 05:32 And people shouldn't be surprised if more restrictions come down in the pipeline. That being said, it puts a such a huge burden on these businesses, County supervisors, Nathan Fletcher, and Greg Cox yesterday announced that they were proposing $20 million to go towards businesses that were impacted by these shutdowns. And they're going to vote on that. So it's moving relatively quickly. They're going to vote on that tomorrow at the County board of meeting. So there could be some relief in the pipeline for this. Nobody I think is ignoring the fact that these are really untenable restrictions being put on these businesses. If they want to stay alive.

Speaker 3: 06:08 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Rivlin, Nadler, and max. Thank you. Thank you. [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.