It’s not much, but at this point, every little bit helps.
San Joaquin County has eased some COVID-19 restrictions just slightly, enough to give Escalon city officials the idea to start lining up businesses and services, seeing action plans they can put in place so everyone will be ready when the county says ‘go.’
On Friday, April 24, San Joaquin County Public Health Officials released a new order, amending one sent on April 14.
In essence, it allows for some limited use of public spaces and also provides for the re-opening of golf courses and allows ‘drive up’ church services – as long as participants stay in their vehicles and maintain the six-feet social distancing protocol.
In Escalon, signs went up at city parks following the April 24 county ruling. The amendment for parks indicated that while all park equipment is closed, including playground equipment, benches, tables, bathrooms, BBQs, circuit workout equipment, covered BBQ areas and stages – along with any hard surface – the grassy areas of the parks may be used. The goal is to have people engage in outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, biking and running, provided those using the parks comply with the existing social distancing requirements.
“Sports or activities that involve the use of shared equipment, such as balls, may only be engaged in by members of the same household,” the park closure amendment adds.
So families can return to local parks to play ball, but must keep it within their own family, and must maintain their distance from others using the park as well.
Also, said City Manager Tammy Alcantor, the city council has put out a request to business owners, asking them to devise a ‘Social Distancing Protocol’ that will allow them to re-open as soon as county officials give the go-ahead.
Alcantor said she and Mayor Robert Swift have been keeping an eye on the county Board of Supervisors meetings and believe there is an opportunity for Escalon businesses to get back in operation sooner rather than later, as long as they can have plans in place.
Since Escalon is not a large city, Alcantor said, there may be more chance of it being allowed to ‘get back to business’ earlier than the more heavily populated cities in the county, such as Stockton.
Business owners have a long list to fill out for the council, if they choose to participate, covering such items as the square footage of space open to the public, the measures they would take to protect employee health – a checklist is provided by the city – and how they would prevent crowds from gathering at their locations. Public protective measures are also sought, as well as what steps the business would take to increase sanitization.
“We’re the fortunate ones, still able to work,” Alcantor said of herself and city staff members, from City Hall to Public Works to the Police Department. “We’re all eager to get back and I love how our small business owners have been creative with ways to sell, I appreciate those entrepreneurs out there.”
With the golf courses reopening, churches being allowed to host ‘Drive up’ services and the lifting of a total ban on parks usage, officials are hopeful there may be a pinpoint of light at the end of what still remains a very long tunnel.
“I’ve talked to a few businesses, this is the nuts and bolts of slowly reopening this economy,” Mayor Robert Swift said of having businesses join in the process.
He said Governor Gavin Newsom has likened it to a ‘dimmer’ switch return to normal as opposed to a ‘light’ switch – but Escalon could be one of those communities that hits the switch first.
“We want any and every business to start thinking about what they could do, how they could open up under social distancing guidelines, keep things clean, how they could start,” Swift said. “We need that input; the county is going to need that input too.”
Alcantor said they are eager to take local plans to the next level, for consideration by county officials.
“So when it’s time (to open) we are ahead of the curve, not behind,” Alcantor said.
Swift said the shutdown approach was like taking a weed whacker to a flower garden and decimating it all, weeds and flowers alike.
He is looking for some flowers to start growing again soon.
“They get it (re-opening plan) to us, we get it to the county board, the county OES (Office of Emergency Services),” Swift said. “We need to get the good going again, slowly turn this economy back on.”