County supervisors vote to support economic reopening plan; get update on local COVID-19 emergency

San Diego County's Reopen San Diego Business Safety Framework describes guidelines all businesses will need to follow to welcome customers when the state loosens restrictions on business operations.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to support a framework plan to prepare businesses to reopen, and received updated data about the state of the county’s COVID-19 emergency.

The vote came a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that some retail stores across the state could open with modifications as early as Friday. The governor said bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods retailers and others could reopen for curbside pickup. More-detailed guidelines are expected later in the week.

The governor’s plan to ease restrictions on businesses, the start of Phase 2 of a four-stage plan, allows local jurisdictions some flexibility in moving ahead into the reopening phase.

The county’s Reopen San Diego Business Safety Framework, supported by the supervisors’ vote, describes guidelines all businesses will need to follow to welcome customers when the state loosens restrictions on business operations.

Supervisors voted to send the plan to Newsom and make an official request for formal local control to make economic and other decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in San Diego County.

City and county leaders have said there are steps all businesses should be taking as they move toward reopening.

“We can’t do anything about the stay-at-home order — that is clearly up to the governor,” county Supervisor Greg Cox said this week. “But what we can do is help make it easier for businesses to reopen safely and smartly and smoothly as soon as possible if they have these [guidelines] to work from.”

The Reopen San Diego Business Safety Framework requires all businesses to develop a Safe Reopening Plan before welcoming customers again. Safe Reopening Plans are intended to ensure employee and customer safety by increasing sanitation, enforcing physical distancing and encouraging communication with county officials.

The framework, which was unveiled Monday, was developed by the Responsible COVID-19 Economic Reopening Advisory Group and includes five guidelines that may be applied to all businesses:

  • Employee health: Procure and provide personal protective equipment for employees and commit to voluntary compliance with public health officials on contact tracing and testing.
  • Safe worksite entry: Establish controlled entrance and exit practices to avoid issues with lines and work with the Public Health Department to create processes for checking employees’ symptoms.
  • Workplace distancing and conditions: Evaluate occupancy and capacity to ensure proper physical distancing and keep shifts consistent with the same employees in each rotation or shift.
  • Employee training and compliance: Ensure signage on safety requirements such as hand washing, physical distancing and reporting procedures for employees who become ill.
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation: Develop a sanitation plan that includes frequent cleaning of restrooms, workstations and public spaces.

The advisory group also plans to provide enhanced guidance specific to industries such as restaurants, spas and construction companies.

As the Board of Supervisors looked ahead to reopening businesses, officials presented data on the county’s progress toward slowing the spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.

Among the data presentations Tuesday was a description of modeling results indicating the estimated basic rate of the virus’s transmission in San Diego County with and without public health interventions.

The presentation, by Natasha Martin, an infectious-disease economic modeler who teaches at UC San Diego, calculated the basic reproduction number, known as the R0 or R naught, before social distancing interventions at 4.67. That means a single infected person would infect 4.67 other people in a fully susceptible population.

But as of Tuesday, after more than six weeks of public health interventions such as social distancing, the effective reproduction number — the number of infections caused by a single infected person at a given time — was 0.83 in San Diego County, according to the presentation.

Without public health interventions, the virus would have claimed an estimated 12,790 lives in San Diego County by April 27, according to the presentation. With social distancing and other public health interventions, the county had recorded 128 deaths by that date.

Martin cautioned that while an effective reproduction number of less than 1 is good, if the county were to lift all public health restrictions now, models project it would see hundreds of deaths per day by the first week of June, Martin said.

San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Lyndsay Winkley contributed to this report.