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Riverside County Wants to Reopen Dine-In Restaurants in Just Three Weeks

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The county has asked for approval on a plan that would phase in businesses, including restaurants and breweries, beginning on September 8

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A Joshua tree sits in the blazing desert sun next to a pile of ancient rocks.
A Joshua Tree in Riverside County
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Riverside County officials are eager to reopen businesses despite the raging pandemic across California, with hopes of returning to sit-down dining at area restaurants in just three weeks’ time. Per the Press-Enterprise, county officials submitted a letter on August 12 stating a desire to reopen wineries, breweries, and sit-down, dine-in restaurants by September 8, the day after Labor Day.

Per the phased-in approach, county officials would allow places of worship and personal care facilities (barbershops, nail salons, hair salons, etc.) to reopen on September 8 in addition to dine-in restaurants, wineries, and breweries. The next phase would tentatively come on September 22, with the resumption of weddings, group meetings, and indoor shopping at malls. The third phase, on October 6, would potentially allow bars, movie theaters, and gyms to reopen.

“Our county has taken a major leadership position to aggressively combat COVID-19,” says the letter from Riverside County executive officer George Johnson, which was sent to California Health & Human Services head Dr. Mark Ghaly on August 12. The county, which spans from the cities of Riverside and Corona to the west out past Palm Springs and to rural Blythe, saw over 1,800 newly reported cases over the weekend, with 31 deaths. A month ago all of the county’s ICU beds were full, and the federal government was sending in a national team of doctors to deal with rising hospitalizations.

Riverside County remains on governor Gavin Newsom’s watch list (as do most counties statewide) due to elevated risk of transmission and COVID-19 hospitalization, so it remains unclear how the county would be allowed to move into its own reopening timeline just yet. San Diego and Orange counties, however, have applied to be taken off the watch list after meeting various guidelines, but that has not been confirmed by the governor’s office.

California governor Newsom closed indoor dining and bars statewide on July 13 in response to rising coronavirus numbers statewide. Late last week, California became the first state in America to surpass 600,000 total coronavirus cases.