FRESNO, California (KGPE) — Businesses are scrambling to shut down indoor services after the state moved dozens of counties into the most restrictive Purple Tier.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new tier assignments Monday afternoon. Citing rising COVID-19 cases across the board, he said around 40 counties have regressed, some falling multiple levels into the Purple Tier.
Fresno, Merced, and Kings counties were part of this. The move back into the Purple Tier means a number of industries will now have to operate fully outdoors.
For a coalition of businesses in Fresno County, shutting down indoor services just isn’t an option to survive the pandemic. Eateries across the Central Valley have been preparing for the holiday season for a while. It’s the busiest season for them all year.
“Inventory’s been purchased, staff has been hired, and schedules have been made,” restauranteur Lewis Everk said.
Everk said he and other business owners saw the writing on the wall for some time, but what did shock him was the time to transition back into Purple Tier operations.
Previously, businesses in counties experiencing a tier change had three days to adapt to new restrictions. But, Gov. Newsom said businesses now only have 24 hours.
“We have to go and change everything at the drop of a dime,” Everk said.
Businesses that lose indoor operations in the Purple Tier are restaurants, gyms, places of worship, movie theaters, and museums.
Everk helped start the Open Central California Safely group. While they support enforcing CDC guidelines, such as mask-wearing and social distancing — shutting down indoors doesn’t seem like an option.
“We’re left with basically nothing to go from this point. We have no other options to do what we need to do to have our businesses survive,” Everk said.
Fresno Chamber of Commerce CEO Nathan Ahle said the lack of consistency has been a big blow to businesses — especially for those who have been abiding by the shutdowns from day one.
Regarding state leadership, he said, “I understand that we’re dealing with a pandemic. We’re dealing with uncharted territory, but these folks have these livelihoods on the line.”
Ahle estimates we’ve lost hundreds of businesses in Fresno so far. He’s expecting to lose “dozens, if not hundreds more.”
“It really is just tragic,” he said.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand and Fresno City Council president Miguel Arias issued a joint statement on the situation, hoping for businesses’ voluntary compliance by 11:59 p.m. Monday.