San Diego Begins Phase II Store Reopenings

This article is a part of our news series on the COVID-19 pandemic. For information on how to prevent the spread of the virus, click here.

Following strict state guidelines, the County of San Diego has now moved into an accelerated Phase II reopening of businesses and locales. On Wednesday, May 20, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved the county’s request to reopen dine-in restaurants as well as in-store retailers. Phase II of the state’s COVID-19 Resiliency Road Map aims to allow low-risk workplaces – like those aforementioned as well as manufacturing, offices, and personal services – to resume business.

According to the county’s Safe Reopening Plans, businesses will have to continue to ensure the health and safety of all patrons and employees with limited reopenings. This means that owners must ensure that people in the stores are at least six feet apart and are wearing face coverings. They must also regularly sanitize often touched surfaces and limit the number of people inside the store to promote social distancing. Many businesses are also requesting that patrons do not visit if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19.

At this time, some businesses are still choosing to not reopen due to continued concerns while waiting for federal and state loans; others are still not permitted to open. As stated by county health officials in this announcement, San Diego is on a fast-track through the Resiliency Road Map and has also been approved to allow salons, barbershops, and church services to resume. However, beach usage is still restricted while other businesses like gyms, bars, indoor museums, and concert venues will not be open until the county moves into the next two phases. 

UC San Diego students still living in La Jolla and the surrounding cities can expect to see some of their favorite destinations reopen and expand services in the coming weeks.

Westfield UTC reopened on Friday, May 29 with modified hours, but specific vendors vary in their hours of operation. The mall will continue its Answer on the Spot Program to respond to any questions or concerns people have; they will also work with specific stores to allow for curb-side pickup of over-the-phone and online orders. 

“Westfield shopping centers in San Diego, which include Westfield UTC, Mission Valley, North County, and Plaza Bonita, announced today that they will re-open for the community.” according to a Westfield press release. “The centers will continue working with select retailers to facilitate curbside pick-up to make it as easy as possible for customers to quickly and safely collect purchases. Customers will purchase items online, or do so by calling the store directly, with the retailer then arranging to deliver the purchased items directly to the customer at an appointed location at the center.”

Restaurants like the Taco Stand will now allow both dine-in and take-out in accordance to the Resiliency Road Map. Similar to many restaurants in the San Diego area, the Taco Stand will be expanding their services and have requested for patrons to wear masks and adhere to social distancing rules.

“We have adjusted our dining rooms so guests and tables are at least 6 feet apart, improved the flow so people don’t come in contact with each other, our crews are taking additional safety measures and surfaces are constantly sanitized,” Taco Stand representative Julian Hakim said via email to the UCSD Guardian. “These last few months have been very difficult for the restaurant industry and we are no exception. We are committed to keeping our employees safe and employed with as many hours as they had before but it isn’t over yet and restaurants need support more than ever.”

Many large indoor areas are still not open. The nearby Birch Aquarium will remain indefinitely closed to prevent further spreading of the disease. However, they have stressed that they are still working to ensure that all animals and plants are thriving and that exhibits are fully functional. Although absent of guests, the aquarium is still following health and safety guidelines. 

“Birch Aquarium is working behind the scenes to update safety and cleaning protocols,” Birch Aquarium Marketing Specialist Caitlin Scully said in an email to The UCSD Guardian. “We are incorporating Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization recommendations, as well as adhering to state and University of California guidelines. The safety and well-being of our guests, staff, and volunteers is our highest priority and we are taking every step to ensure that our guests are confident and comfortable once our doors reopen.”

Downtown tourist destinations like Balboa Park have opened limited areas for guests to visit. Although museums and other amenities are closed, park areas and trails are now accessible. Park authorities will only permit passive activities like walking, jogging, and biking and have stated that they will not allow large group activities. 

In lieu of visiting the plethora of museums, Balboa Park has partnered with some of them to create virtual tours that patrons can attend online. Through their Balboa Park TV, people will be able to visit popular destinations like the San Diego Zoo, the Fleet Science Center, and the Museum of Man. 

Although not every business is open now or has limited options for visiting, UCSD students now have more options if they decide to take a break from quarantine. However, going outside for non-essential activities is still not advised by the county. To enter into businesses, everyone is required to wear some type of face covering and must practice social distance to promote health and safety.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism.