Riverside County is back in the state’s most restrictive coronavirus reopening tier today, meaning no more indoor dining — even at limited capacity and with approved health and safety measurements in place. The “slide back” into the Purple tier, to use a common California Department of Public Health phrase, comes just weeks after the county (one of the state’s largest by land size) was given the go-ahead to move into the less-restrictive Red tier in the first place. This means popular fall and winter destinations like Palm Springs will have to close off indoor dining rooms until Riverside County’s COVID-19 cases decline.
As is the scene across much of the country right now, Riverside County’s coronavirus case numbers have been ticking troublingly up recently, ultimately crossing the state’s publicly discussed thresholds for its tiered reopening. Health officers there have been trying to keep their numbers down by offering more testing and taking other preventative measures, but today during the state’s weekly press conference Dr. Mark Gahly’s office announced the backslide anyway.
The closure of Riverside County to limited indoor dining is the fall’s first example of the state’s plan to “toggle” back and forth between tiers for those counties that do not reach and maintain set COVID-19 data thresholds. For restaurants and other businesses, they also mean a dizzying lack of clarity on what is and isn’t allowed, and when — and with rising case numbers, flu season, and an expected third wave still to hit California, things continue to look troubling for operators and diners alike. For now, cities from Riverside proper out through Palm Springs are, once again, forced back into takeout and delivery or outdoor dining only.