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Another shutdown of local businesses possibly devastating to employees during holiday season

Local businesses are preparing for the likelihood of another devastating shutdown.

Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico confirms that the stay-at-home order will go into effect 24 hours after the Southern California region reaches 15 percent of remaining ICU beds.

“It’s been very hard, you know, we have a pregnant lady who’s here who is struggling, she’s working as many hours as she can because she’s expecting,” said Marycarmen Saucedo, a waitress at The Slice and Maraca’s in Rancho Mirage.

This affects business owners, yes. But it also impacts the employees who need the money they earn at work to support themselves and their families.

Restaurants, salons and retail stores might not be considered essential, but for the employees it is. Timing could not be worse, with the holidays right around the corner.

“Holidays are going to be very hard, but it’s going to be very hard for those families that have people in the hospital that are suffering from this disease that are going to be alone without their family there,” Saucedo said.

Many business owners are questioning whether the potential shutdown is warranted and seek evidence that businesses - like restaurants, salons and retail stores - have been directly contributing to the spike in coronavirus cases around California.

News Channel 3 spoke with Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari about the main contributors to the spike in coronavirus cases across the county.

"If you think of places where people typically gather, they may or may not have their mask on the entire time because either they're eating or something else is causing them to take it off, those are the areas where we have highest risk of transmission and certainly expect to see outbreaks in those areas," Saruwatari said. 

But to expect is different than to know for sure. Saruwatari says the county uses contact tracers to find out where people are getting infected, but that process is not exact.

“If you went to work in the morning, and then you stopped at a grocery store on your way home and then you went to a barbecue at a family member's house, and you become sick a few days later, where was your source of exposure? It's very difficult to tease that out at the granular level,” she said.

Saruwatari says health officials believe group gatherings are the most to blame for the current virus spread. 

"We do think though, based on the fact that we don't have a lot of outbreaks tied to retail establishments or places of business, that there is a lot of spread going on by gatherings, either in private homes, or even, you know, places that are maybe a little bit more public," Saruwatari said.

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Taylor Begley

Taylor Begley is a Sports Anchor and Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. You can also catch her anchoring weather on the weekends. Learn more about Taylor here.

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