San Diego businesses dealt another blow as stay-at-home order extended


SAN DIEGO – State public health officials Tuesday extended the regional stay-at-home order in effect in San Diego County, dealing a blow to some local businesses that had hoped to ring in the new year with customers in their establishments.

Empty tables are shown inside the restaurant Barbusa on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020 in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood.

“We definitely weren’t surprised,” said Peter Busalacchi, general manager of Barbusa in Little Italy. “We were 100% expecting to be closed down.”

The state’s regional order, which covers an 11-county Southern California area, took effect at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 6 and was set to expire Monday. But with the region’s intensive-care unit capacity at hospitals still officially listed at 0%, the order was extended indefinitely.

The state’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said four-week projections indicate incoming COVID-19 patients are expected to continue exceeding ICU capacity in the region. Ghaly said four-week projections are evaluated daily, and the region can emerge from the stay-at- home order whenever the projection indicates a region’s ICU capacity will rise above 15%.

According to Ghaly, projections are based on are based on four factors: current ICU capacity, the region’s seven-day average daily new case rate, the transmission rate and the rate of ICU admissions.

In most years, Busalacchi said Little Italy can be a lively place for hundreds to celebrate New Year’s Eve, including at Barbusa which typically hosts a large party to mark the occasion.

Now, like many treasured moments upended by a global pandemic, it’s canceled, Busalacchi said.

“We would have been booked for probably two months ago for New Year’s Eve,” he said, “and now unfortunately we will be closed.”

With the Southern California region’s current ICU capacity still listed at 0% — and health officials anticipating case numbers and hospitalizations to rise throughout January based on gatherings that likely occurred for Christmas and will again for New Year’s Eve despite warnings — the region is expected to remain under the order for weeks to come.

The state also extended the stay-at-home order for the San Joaquin Valley. Four of the five regions carved out by the state are under stay-at-home orders, covering 98% of the state’s population. Only far northern California is not under a stay-at-home order.

The Southern California region covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Most broadly, the order bars gatherings of people from different households.

Plenty of others are in the same boat as Barbusa. Marco Li Mandri, chief executive administrator of the Little Italy Association, said the financial fallout of an extended stay-at-home order is “liquidating the small business community, especially restaurants and bars.”

“There appears to be very little regard for retail outside of big box, chain grocery and publicly traded companies,” Li Mandri said in a statement to FOX 5. “The economic impact to neighborhood business districts will be harsh to say the least.”

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