Just when things started to look somewhat normal with California's reopening in June, concerns over the highly transmissible Delta variant and rising COVID-19 cases in Riverside County and across the state have local businesses on their toes-- ready to pivot for just about anything.
"We just try to keep up with the new rules and as they change and evolve you really have to pay attention to them," owner of Crystal Fantasy in downtown Palm Springs, Joy Meredith said.
As of Friday numbers released by Riverside County's department of public health showed a steady increase in hospitalizations over 12 consecutive days. Friday the county reported a total of 246 COVID-related hospitalizations-- a number that hasn't been nearly that high since March.
"We have masks and hand sanitizer for free at the front door and if (state officials) decide that our customers have to be masked indoors, we’ll do that too," said Meredith.
Meredith said as a safety precaution, she and her employees have never stopped wearing masks.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that all Americans should wear masks indoors in parts of the country with high transmissible rates. The state of California followed suit and added a recommendation to its guidance that people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
"I think that it was just a real reality check for all of us. I think that for many people, we’ve kind of let our guard down for a little bit," Meredith said.
The evolving guidance has created concerns for business owners who are unsure of what to anticipate in the future.
"It is a scary time right now honestly because we really don’t know what’s coming and of course that is always very nerve wracking," Meredith said.
Over the course of the pandemic businesses have been pulled in all different directions, and Coachella Valley business owners aren't immune.
"I don’t think anyone’s quite ready to exhale yet. I think we’re always sort of ready to pivot as we need to. The good news is we’ve had a lot of practice pivoting in the last 18 months," co-owner of Grill-a-Burger in Palm Desert, Salima Nurani said.
Nurani said summer business has been busier than normal for this time of year. But it has been a rollercoaster, and to add to it, supplier pricing is going up.
"Being a private business we definitely have the option for choice in terms of what our guests are preferring, what our employees are preferring. We prefer that we are all vaccinated and do what we can to listen to the science but also at the same time, (we're a) big believer in peoples’ choice to do what they feel is best for them," Nurani said.
Fortunately Nurani said customers have been understanding, and there have been no difficulties in following the recommended guidance.
"I think the way we’re trying to do it is just for everybody to be as reasonable as we can," said Nurani.
In Desert Hot Springs, staff at Delicias Mexican Cuisine has also noticed a spike in summer sales.
"I have seen more people wearing their masks, which is a good thing. It’s more of a positive thing because it helps us stay safe, ourselves as servers and also (customers) as well," server Pilar Paniagua said.
Despite steady business, Paniagua can't help but be ready for the worst.
"We were talking about if we do go back into lockdown- we’re trying to stay positive about it. It will 110 percent affect all businesses including us, but we’re just trying to stay positive and finding other resources where we can still maintain our takeout, curbside and all that," Paniagua said.
But after months of going back and forth with state guidance, Paniagua is hoping that doesn't happen.
"I just feel like if we can take the smallest precautions to keep ourselves healthy and safe then I think everybody should be willing to accommodate with our new recommendations," she said.