The day after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office granted Kern County a regional variance, many businesses scrambled to reopen while others were relatively unaffected by the new state of affairs.
The regional variance allows counties to accelerate through the second stage of the governor’s four-stage reopening plan faster than the state as a whole. The governor is allowing counties that have not been as heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus to open more quickly than those that have not, as long as they meet certain criteria.
While the early phase of Stage 2 allowed only curbside pickup and delivery at restaurants and retail stores, the later phase gives businesses the option of in-person shopping and dining. Manufacturing, offices, childcare facilities, car washes, pet grooming, malls and outdoor museums, and public spaces are also allowed to open provided they follow state guidelines.
As of May 21 afternoon, the state had approved 42 counties to move more deeply into Stage 2.
“We believe that by following these guidelines, our county can safely and responsibly begin reopening our society and get people back to work,” Supervisor Leticia Perez said during a press conference May 21. “We see Gov. Newsom’s decision to open during this Memorial Day weekend as a clear and strong demonstration to his commitment and trust in Kern County.”
Outlets at Tejon wasted no time May 21 in announcing stores would reopen. The shopping center noted in a press release that some stores would come back more quickly than others, and social distancing and mask wearing would be encouraged.
Marketing Director Rebecca Swiggum said in the release that employees had been working hard to make the outlet as safe as possible for guests.
Some restaurants, one of the main beneficiaries of the governor’s allowance, sprang into action on May 21, quickly opening their doors to customers.
“I have piles of paperwork that I have to go read through with all the guidelines and updates,” said Mickensie Neal, who works at Ethel’s Old Corral in Bakersfield, which opened to dine-in customers May 21.
She said owner Natalie Mears had been busy all day making sure the restaurant met the state’s social distancing guidelines and making sure all the employees were trained on new protocols.
While some businesses that were supposed to be part of the later phase of Stage 2 have been open for weeks, others are taking more time to adjust.
Valley Plaza Mall, one of Bakersfield’s biggest retail centers, was not ready to announce reopening plans on May 21.
Cindy Harting, the owner of Tattle Tails Dog Grooming on District Boulevard, said she had been open for two weeks after being given permission by the Kern County Public Health Department.
“We’re just slammed, absolutely slammed,” she said. “We’re booked up into next month already.”
She added that the steady business she was experiencing would not make up for the months she had been shut down.
“I tried to apply for unemployment and I never could. The website kept crashing and I just gave up,” she said. “I’m just happy to be working again.”
While some industries can reopen, many must remain closed. Movie theaters, hair salons and even churches have not yet been cleared by the governor to open their doors to the public.
On May 21, Kern County officials indicated they would wait for the governor’s go-ahead before moving forward.
“We would like to see these businesses get open and running, these venues get back to some normalcy to the extent they can,” said Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.
Although the governor has said the state could move into Stage 3 in a few weeks, the exact date has not been revealed. If COVID-19 conditions worsen, the date could be pushed back.
Kern County, along with the rest of California, will have to wait to see what happens.