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Riverside County categorized as highest risk for reopening, no indoor dining

New guidelines are in place for California counties to move toward reopening. They're designed to make the process more gradual than it was back in May.

Jack Srebnik, owner of The Slice Pizzeria in Rancho Mirage, said he was expecting news Friday about reopening indoor dining, but the restrictions in Riverside County weren't lifted under the new color-coded, 4-tier plan.

"It's a little discouraging," Srebnik said. He built a new outdoor patio at his restaurant that can seat nearly 20 customers at a time. But he thinks the desert should be given special consideration for business reopening.

"It's really hard to get somebody outside, even with misters, at 117 degrees to sit out there," he said.

On August 12, Riverside County Executive Officer George Johnson sent a letter to state officials proposing a phased reopening plan locally. Phase 1, allowing indoor services like indoor dining, would have begun Sept. 8.

But Riverside County, along with most of California, is now classified in the highest risk category – purple – meaning widespread coronavirus remains the community.

"Coachella Valley is 20 percent of Riverside County, but we make up 30 percent of COVID-19," said Les Zendle, M.D., director of Desert Healthcare District.

He said the numbers have been coming down over the last four to six weeks. But for him, it's still too soon to lift restrictions on indoor dining.

"It is very hard in bars and restaurants where people are going to have their masks off because they're eating and drinking," Zendle said.

"We do everything we can to be safe and I think it should go on the people's choice if they want to come here or not come here," Srebnik said.

The California Restaurant Assocation said the new rules will force more restaurants to close permanently around the state.

Riverside County's purple status won't be re-evaluated for at least three weeks.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.


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