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With Low COVID Numbers, North State Business Cautiously Returns

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California's county reopening metrics, as of Tuesday, Sept. 1.

With a new economic reopening framework unveiled in California late last week, many businesses are allowed to reopen with modified operations. But that could change if coronavirus cases go up.

So far Siskiyou, Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity and Shasta Counties are all listed at the “moderate” or orange risk level under the state’s new reopening plan, Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The reopening metrics are based on the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 and the percent of tests that come back positive in each county.

Humboldt has a positivity rate of 1.4% and an average of 3.6 cases per 100,000 people. That’s just below the next, more restrictive category of “substantial” spread of COVID, indicated with the color red on state maps.

“We’re in a good spot to be in orange but we don’t have a long way to go to be in the red,” says Humboldt County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich. “The businesses where I think that’s really important to pay attention to that are the ones that actually would need to cease operation if we move into the red.”

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County business reopening requirements.

Shasta County has fewer cases of COVID-19 at just 2.4 per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 1.6%.

“There’s some cautious optimism at this point,” says Jake Mangas, president and CEO of the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce.

Indoor dining has been allowed for two days in Redding. Mangas says the state’s previous reopening in July, followed soon after by shutting down restaurants caused food to be wasted and restaurants to lay off newly returned staff.

“They don’t want to go through that again,” he says. “That yo-yoing is a very quick way of accelerating a business going out of business.”

According to Gov. Newsom’s office the new framework is an evolution of past guidance and was created as health officials learned more about the pandemic and how COVID spreads. It does not mean all businesses will see fewer restrictions.

While indoor dining can begin at lower capacity, fitness facilities will have to reduce their current occupancy to 25%. If COVID numbers go up, more businesses like bars or shopping malls would have to close or reduce capacity.

A list of business types and how the new criteria affect their operations is available on the state’s website under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.