As I See It – Business establishments show signs of back-to-normal activities

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Most counties in California are in orange tier, meaning moderate: some indoor business operations are open with modifications. Under the state’s new reopening plan, each county has been assigned a risk level based on coronavirus metrics over the past week. Purple counties with widespread risk (Tier 1) have the most restrictions while yellow counties with minimal risk (Tier 4) have the fewest restrictions. Counties will be assessed weekly by the state to determine which tier they are in, according to San Francisco Chronicle (Corona virus: Reopening California).

“A county will remain in a tier for a minimum of three weeks and must qualify under each indicator before being able to advance. Counties can only move forward one tier at a time, even if their metrics qualify for a more advanced tier. Counties with case rates and positive test rates that fall in two different tiers will be assigned to the more restrictive tier and they must also meet the health equity rate (within 5% of the overall rate) for two consecutive weeks in order to move to a less restrictive tier,” the article continued.

So, what criteria determine risk of activities? These are the  ability to accommodate face coverings at all times; the ability to physically distance between individuals from different households; the ability to limit the number of people per square foot; the ability to limit duration of exposure; the ability to limit the amount of mixing of people from differing households and communities; the ability to limit the amount of physical interactions of visitors/patrons; the ability to optimize ventilation; the ability to limit activities that are known to cause increased spread (singing, shouting, heavy breathing, for example).

Under the orange tier 3, the current essential businesses are open: health care, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks; indoor restaurants and bars that serve sit-down meals with limits of 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer, plus outdoor dining, pickup and delivery; outdoor bars without food service; indoor wineries, breweries and distilleries with 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer, plus outdoors;

Indoor retail, including malls, with closed common areas and limited capacity food courts; indoor and outdoor personal care services, including hair and nail salons, with modifications; indoor places of worship with recommended 50% capacity and modifications; gatherings of up to 50 people outdoors and 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer, indoors;

Private events such as receptions and conferences with modifications including 100-person limit outdoors (300 if all guests are tested or vaccinated) or 150 indoors if all guests are tested or vaccinated; indoor gyms, fitness studios and pools with 25% capacity; Indoor museums, zoos and aquariums with 50% capacity;

Indoor movie theaters with 50% capacity and outdoor drive-in theaters; indoor family entertainment centers with naturally distanced activities such as bowling alleys with 25% capacity; outdoor recreational activities, including miniature golf, batting cages, driving ranges, shooting ranges and kart racing; parks, beaches, golf courses, dog parks, skate parks, campgrounds, athletic fields, tennis courts, swimming pools and outdoor recreation facilities;

Outdoor activities like walking and biking with proper social distancing; construction, real estate transactions and other outdoor businesses with physical distancing requirements; childcare facilities and day camps; Manufacturing and warehouse facilities; hotels and lodging, with fitness centers at 25% capacity plus indoor pools;

Outdoor youth and adult recreational athletics; indoor cardrooms and satellite wagering with 25% capacity; outdoor live events such as sports and performances at permanent venues with modifications, including limited regional attendance and indoor concessions only; indoor seated live events and performances with modifications, including capacity limits based on venue size; amusement parks with modifications, including limited regional attendance and indoor time restrictions; and libraries with 50% capacity.

As we roamed around the cities of San Jose and Milpitas over the weekend, my wife Del and I saw signs of business being alive and back to their normal operation… at least partially… as a start. Many business establishments, which have been closed for a year, were opened teeming with customers.

Last Saturday we went to Great Mall in Milpitas. At the Food Court, we finally saw our favorite Great Khan Restaurant (serves Korean barbecue) open, so I joined the long queue of customers wanting to fix their own food for the kitchen person to cook for us.

While eating our lunch, we were approached from behind by Milpitas Vice Mayor Carmen Montano and City Councilmember Evelyn Chua. They took the table next to us. They told us they were going around the Mall and checking how the establishments were doing for business.

The following day, Sunday, we went back to the Mall… this time to eat lunch at the Thai Restaurant and… we bumped on San Jose residents Rene and Aurora Rentar with their daughter Amanda and her four children (the couple’s grandchildren). They said they have been wanting to go out and dine in the restaurant with the children who are getting bored now staying at home.

Just like yesterday, all the tables were occupied and many were waiting in the side for tables to be vacated.

Friday of last week, we went to Milpitas Buffet and have to line up too for dinner. Many customers were already there ahead of us wanting to be served and once again nourish the food we’ve been yearning for a year now. Finally, we had our time to be seated, and with our face masks on, put on the plastic gloves the waiters gave us to be used when taking our food while maintaining social distancing.

While eating our dinner, former Milpitas City Councilmember Atty. Garry Barbadillo and wife Vilma approached us and they were happy seeing us in the area too. They were also there for dinner and likewise observing how business is picking up.

Then we went to Milpitas Grocery Outlet, and again, we saw many people doing their groceries. Customers line up and take turns to enter the store as they follow CDC protocols.

At the Seafood City in Landess Supermart in Milpitas, as usual, many people are shopping and dining at the Seafood Grill Area. Goldilocks, Inay Store, Valerio’s Bakery, Max’s Chicken, and other food and retail establishments in the Oriental shopping complex were likewise opened.

At the Newspaper section at the far-end of the shopping mall, I saw my brother Romy Estioko picking up his favorite newspaper the FilAm Star as he approached me for a conversation. We haven’t seen for a while since the burial of my sister-in-law Ermina three months ago.

Business across the city of Milpitas find creative ways to grow and adapt their businesses during COVID – 19.

In San Jose, the McKee Oriental Seafood Store is likewise full of shoppers. Line was heavy and the customers are happy staying in their line waiting to enter the store.

Again, we saw long lines in KFC in San Jose and Jollibee in Milpitas and Union City as we continue to visit our old stores we frequented in the past. We’re happy these establishments are back to business showing signs of normalcy in the economy. They’ve been shut down for a year and now they are back in the pipeline.

Business is alive!

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.)

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