Claremont approaches ‘new normal’ as COVID-19 recedes

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The city of Claremont took an important step toward its “new normal” when the state officially lowered the coronavirus risk level in Los Angeles County from the most restrictive tier.

Beginning Monday, the county was officially upgraded from a widespread coronavirus outbreak, purple tier, to a substantial one, the red tier. Most Southern California counties reached the red tier at the same time as case rates, hospitalizations and deaths in the region continue to drop.

For Claremont this change means that our many restaurants and retail stores can take another step toward normal business activity right at the beginning of daylight savings time when more people are out and about in the evenings.

Restaurants will be able to open dining rooms at 25 percent capacity, with a number of restrictions, including tables eight feet apart and only one household per table, with a limit of six people. Outdoor dining can accommodate up to six people per table from three different households.

Retail and personal care services can increase capacity to 50 percent with masking required at all times; museums can open at 25 percent capacity; movie theaters can open at 25 percent capacity with reserved seating and each group must be seated at least six feet in all directions from other groups. gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios can open indoors at 10 percent capacity, with masking requirement for all indoor activities.

The Claremont Colleges can reopen, with required safety modifications, “all permitted activities” except for residential housing. Schools are permitted to offer in-person instruction for students in grades 7-12 while adhering to all state and county directives.

Private gatherings can take place indoors with up to three separate households, with masking and distancing required at all times. People who are fully vaccinated can gather in small numbers indoors with other people who are fully vaccinated without required masking and distancing.

On a warm winter afternoon this Wednesday, the streets in the Village were semi-busy with people carrying shopping bags or sitting down for dinner al fresco. Several restaurants, including Espiau’s. have opened for indoor dining, while others like Pizza N Such were still serving on the parklets outside the restaurant.

“This is great what they have set up here,” Upland resident Ann Diaz said as she dined with her husband Jim at Pizza N Such, adding that she hoped all of the restaurants would make enough money to sustain them through the end of the long pandemic.

The retired educators had hoped to dine at the Village Grille but that particular restaurant only serves breakfast and lunch.

Ms. Diaz, a 1973 Claremont High School graduate, said that even though she has received the vaccination she still exercises caution in public.

“It felt like a weight being taken off of my shoulders,” she said about the inoculation. “But I am still going to be careful.”

Across Second Street at Eye of Buddha boutique, Emily Espinosa and her daughter Adeline Soto were browsing the merchandise while having a leisurely shopping day in Claremont.

“It feels good to go to a few stores,” Ms. Espinosa said. “We are getting back to normal little by little, ” she added. Her daughter agreed, “it feels good to be out shopping.”

Eye of Buddha owner Narayan Tamrakar said he has yet to see a big uptick in business even with the reduced restrictions on capacity in retail stores.

As he demonstrated a Himalayan singing bowl to a customer, he explained that there is still not enough foot traffic in the Village and many people still do not have money for shopping.

Asked if the local economy reopening was helping business he replied, “It’s very difficult to tell, one day it’s busy and the next it is dead.”

Around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, restaurants were busy, but there were still enough empty tables for diners with no waiting in line, or crowds outside the doors. Some eateries like Casa Moreno and Espiau’s were prepared and had set up their seating to clearly meet social distancing restrictions. Heroes & Legends Bar & Grill was set up the front bar area inside to serve food, in addition to offering outside dining, but their main dining area was empty.

As many Southern California residents, including the newly inoculated, venture out for meal on the town or get together with friends, health officials warned that the pandemic is far from over and the virus is still very much in circulation locally.

During a news conference on Monday, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned of the threat posed by the new more contagious variants of the coronavirus and recalled how gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas helped fuel the devastating winter surge. She expressed concern that cases could rise again because of Easter and spring break, just as we finally started to reopen our businesses.

“Just because certain activities are allowed or certain reopening protocols are revised does not mean that these activities are 100 percent safe and without risk,” Ms Ferrer said on Monday. “We are still in the middle of a pandemic and whenever there are more opportunities for interactions with people not in your household there could be more transmission of the virus. We do however have the tools to protect ourselves from increased transmission We just need to use them and not get complacent.”

Since the COURIER’s last coronavirus report a week ago the county reports just nine new infections in Claremont and no new deaths, bringing the cumulative total to 2,254 cases and 54 deaths. As of March 8, a total of 9,626 people in Claremont—30.4 percent of the population—have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

L.A. County Department of Public Health reported 75 deaths and 897 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday countywide. That brings the cumulative total to 1,211,733 cases across all areas and 22,580 deaths. Tragically, the second county resident under 18 to succumb to the disease was among the deaths reported Wednesday.

There are 857 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, 28 percent of whom are in the ICU. Average daily hospitalizations are now under 1,000, a rate not seen since early-November.

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