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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A popular local taqueria is struggling to fill open positions, posing an issue for the business with San Diego County on the cusp of joining the state’s least restrictive reopening tier.

As of this week, Tacos El Gordo has 50 open positions offering competitive pay and benefits, but no one is applying, said Delia Hernandez, an administrative assistant for the restaurant. The result has caused the chain to temporarily shut down its downtown San Diego location and close three locations on Tuesdays because they don’t have enough employees to operate.

“We have put banners in the restaurant,” Hernandez said. “If there is someone interested, we have tried giving them applications there and direct(ing) them to the office. People are applying, but they are not returning back.”

Staffing shortages are a familiar issue for restaurants across the country during the pandemic, and it comes as the county could enter California’s yellow tier as early next week.

County officials reported Wednesday the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is the lowest it’s been since the start of the pandemic. The county’s adjusted case rate currently sits at 1.7 new daily cases per 100,000 population, qualifying for the least restrictive tier ahead of when the color-coded reopening system is retired June 15.

In the yellow tier, restaurants can be at 50% capacity with no number limits; in the current orange tier, they’re allowed to open at 50% capacity or up to 200 people, whichever is fewer.

“It is possible when numbers come out next Tuesday, we have two consecutive weeks in the yellow tier then we would enter the yellow tier next Wednesday,” County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said.

Hernandez says because of the staffing shortage, she is asking for customers to be patient with them as service is slower due to the lack of staff.

“Right now, we are limited,” she said. “We are pushing. We can do it, but we need assistance.”