Riverside County returned to the more restrictive purple tier from the red tier in California’s color-coded COVID-19 tier system on Oct. 20. This transition has once more ended indoor operations for many businesses.
While it is important to continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, it is dangerous to toggle between opening and shutting down the county due to changing case numbers.
The constantly changing restrictions on businesses have made it difficult for many business operations to continue, especially small businesses.
A group of U.S. small businesses surveyed as the shutdown proceeded claimed they were experiencing significant financial shortages, according to a research article on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America website.
The loss of jobs and businesses is unnecessary given that businesses can open safely for indoor activity with additional precautions in place, such as limiting the number of customers at a given time, improving sanitation and requiring face coverings and social distancing. We cannot simply ignore one issue to solve another. While maintaining people’s health is a priority, people’s ability to remain economically stable must be considered.
We must also acknowledge the severe mental health implications of remaining in an indefinite shutdown. According to the World Health Organization, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety have risen during the pandemic.
Completing school and work from home, living in social isolation and experiencing financial insecurity due to the shutdown can all contribute to mental health issues. We must learn to reopen society safely to combat mental health issues.
According to covid19.ca.gov, Riverside County has 8.4 new COVID-19 cases each day per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 5.2%. While the test positivity rate remains within the red tier requirements for the county, the number of COVID-19 cases moved to purple-tier status. To return to the red tier, Riverside County will have to maintain a test positivity rate below 8% and lower its daily new case count to below 7 per 100,000 residents.
This back-and-forth scenario can have detrimental effects on residents, especially small businesses, as they must constantly adapt to new levels of restrictions as they go about their daily lives and operations.
In the prolonged state of the pandemic, these continued steps backward are doing more harm than good. We must, through careful planning, reopen safely rather than taking tentative steps forward only to take leaps backward.
We simply must be prepared to take the necessary steps to successfully reopen safely.