Shock, fear and frustration as state orders indoor dining, indoor bar service closed

Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

Some local restaurant servers were serving and bartenders were tending bar when the news came down from the state late Monday night that all indoor dining and bar service in all 58 counties, including Mono County, had to shut down all inside operations, effective immediately.
Takeout and outdoor dining, as well as serving alcohol with meals outside, is still allowed.
Other local businesses, such as movie theatres and more (see list below), were also ordered to shut down in all 58 counties, as Covid-19 cases hit record highs this week in the state, with 11,000 cases confirmed on Wednesday alone.
Mono County, for its part, has seen a sharp increase in cases over the past few weeks, with 13 new cases by Tuesday night. But, compared to the state, the county was doing very well, with its overall “positivity rate,” which is the rate or positive tests compared to the number of tests done still relatively low or under three percent.
As of press time, there were no hospitalizations due to Covid-19 cases, there was still enough PPE, and contact tracing capacity was still good, according to county officials.
That said, Mono County did escape additional shutdowns – at least so far – compared to 30 more populous counties which have been on a Covid-19 ‘watchlist’ for days and weeks now due to rising cases and other Covid-19-related statistics. For those counties, gyms, nail salons and hairdressers as well as other businesses were also on the list of mandated shutdowns (see more below).
Again, Mono and Inyo counties were not on that list at press time.
As the news about the indoor dining and bar service richocheted through the county, the reactions of dismay and frustration were topped by an overall sense of stunned surprise – not because the restrictions were imposed so much as because of how they were imposed – with no warning; that they were imposed on a small county with low Covid-19 impacts; and, because of how little information there was as to what a county or business could do, if anything, to end the closures.
“We have invested thousands of dollars in PPE, our cases are still very low and we have proven we can operate safely,” said a business owner during a recent meeting with the Mono County Board of Supervisors. “We think the ‘one size fits all’ order should be looked at again.”
The sentiment was echoed by many on the Mono Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning, just a few hours after the order came down the previous night.
“My phone was ringing off the hook,” said Mono County Supervisor John Peters, who lives in Bridgeport and owns the Bridgeport Inn. “We have been meeting all the metrics, we have been hitting all the marks, and now, we are linked to all the other counties... “People are very frantic,” he said. “They have a 15-17 week window of activity and this is what’s left.”
And what should he tell his employees, he asked. “I get calls, do I tell my people to get back on unemployment? I don’t know.”
Nor did anyone else and that is what rankled almost as much as the order. Just as bad, Peters said, was the fact that the state didn’t give information regarding how long the shutdown might be, or if there was a way to relieve it, locally. “There was no indication of what we need to meet attain in order to have a hope of reopening,” he said. “We need to be able to go to the state and get those answers.”
“There is so much fear because these things are happening without any forewarning and, (they are happening) right away,” said Supervisor Jennifer Kreitz. “And it should be included in our discussion with the state that this uncertainly, for our residents, is unacceptable.”
The Supervisors agreed to push hard to advocate for more information from the state, with finding out if the county could be evaluated on a “case by case” basis as a highest priority.
The county health department clarified the new orders from the state this way: “Effective immediately, Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health have ordered ALL counties (including Mono) to close indoor operations in the following sectors: dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers (for example: bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades), zoos and museums and cardrooms.
“Additionally, bars, brewpubs, breweries, and pubs must close all operations both indoor and outdoor statewide, unless they are offering sit-down, outdoor dine-in meals,” the county said. “Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.”
Counties that have remained on the ‘County Monitoring List’ for three consecutive days will be required to shut down the following industries or activities unless they can be modified to operate outside or by pick-up: Fitness centers; Worship services; Protests; Offices for non-essential sectors; Personal care services, like nail salons, body waxing and tattoo parlors; Hair salons and barbershops and malls. Mono County is not currently on the state’s County Monitoring List; therefore, these additional sector closures do not apply to Mono County at this time.
“The order is effective immediately and the closures will remain in effect until the State Public Health Officer determines it is appropriate to modify the order based on public health conditions.
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