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It’s not time to put away the social distancing signs or masks any time soon, but Fresno County’s top health official says local restaurants will be permitted to open their dining rooms again next week.

“On September 29th – that evening – you can make a reservation at your favorite dine-in restaurant which will be allowed to have indoor dining,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno county’s interim health officer during a Tuesday Zoom call with reporters.

The news comes hours after new state data was released showing the county meeting two metrics needed to move into a less restrictive tier for managing local COVID-19 transmission. Fresno County is currently in the most restrictive tier —purple — and appears on track to move into the red tier if trends hold.

Improvement in Key Testing Metrics

Fresno County now has a 4.8% test positivity rate for COVID (down from 9.8% last week) and 6.3 cases per 100,000 residents (down from 12.6 last week), according to the newly posted data. To move Fresno County into the next lower tier, those numbers need to be less than 8% test positivity and between four to seven new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents for a minimum of 2 consecutive weeks.

The red tier allows for indoor dining. According to the state’s website, restaurants can open indoors at 25% capacity or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is fewer.

A look at California’s tiered system and the metrics needed to move to a higher tier. (State of California)

Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County interim health officer

“On September 29th – that evening – you can make a reservation at your favorite dine-in restaurant which will be allowed to have indoor dining.”Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno county’s interim health officer

K through 12 Schools Reopening

Vohra also said that two weeks after Fresno County moves into the red tier, K-12 schools can reopen. He believes that date could be October 13th.

“I really want the schools to speak with the parents, speak with the teachers, the staff, and make sure everyone understands what the (safety) protocols are,” said Vohra.

Some elementary schools have already been approved for waivers to reopen.

Nail Salon Restrictions Relaxed

Earlier in the day, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that nail salons in California have been given the green light to reopen indoors immediately.

Ghaly said the state has relaxed its restrictions and will allow counties to make their own decisions on when nail salons in their area can reopen. The change applies to all counties.

Vohra told reporters during his call he has no objections to the reopening of nail salons across Fresno County.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Responds to Fresno Rally

Ghaly was asked about businesses in Fresno County that have vowed to reopen on October 1st regardless of state health orders.

“In some of the counties, Fresno in the Central Valley and throughout the state, we’re seeing steady progress. That’s why I urge all of us to continue to look at the updates, not just for those counties that made a move in the tiers but those who are nearing a move in the tiers,” Ghaly said.

“We will soon see more communities and businesses have a chance to begin operations.” Ghaly also said the state is ready to send teams out to enforce health guidelines if necessary.

Can’t Let Guard Down

“We can’t let our guard down during this second reopening.”Jean Rousseau Fresno County’s administrative officer

Jean Rousseau, Fresno County’s administrative officer said he doesn’t want to see a repeat of what happened in June after some businesses were allowed to open.

“We can’t let our guard down during this second reopening,” Rousseau said. “It’s critical to reiterate the mask wearing and social distancing.”

Rousseau says a radio and TV ad campaign will begin soon reminding the public of the need to stay vigilant.

Other Allowances in Red Tier

If Fresno County moves into the red tier on September 29th, several other business types would be able to open in some manner:

  • Gyms and fitness centers —indoors with modifications at 10% maximum capacity.
  • Body waxing studios — indoors with modifications.
  • Movie theaters — indoors with modifications at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

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