Contra Costa County brings back some COVID-19 restrictions as coronavirus cases spike

Contra Costa County has amended its health order to reduce the number of people allowed inside restaurants, movie theaters, and religious institutions amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

On Friday Oct. 6, indoor dining will be reduced from 50% capacity to 25% capacity. The same goes for movie theaters and religious services. Card rooms must move outdoors and outdoor bars that do not serve food will close. 

According to Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county has seen COVID-19 case rates climb about 25% and hospitalizations have nearly doubled in the past two weeks from under 20 patients to 40 patients.

“We need to loosen up cautiously and slowly, but we when see the numbers going up quickly, we need to jump on it quickly,” Farnitano said. “We are definitely seeing more younger people in the hospital than we saw in the spring.”

At Buttercup Diner in Walnut Creek, owner Ben Shahvar feels like the restaurant is operating on a light switch. More than a week ago, he brought back staff and made a few new hires, only to now be told that that country restrictions are tightening again.

“It's not so much that there's a problem with public health or public safety, not at all. the problem is that you start to make certain plans that affect people's lives and livelihoods,” Shahvar said.

He knows dozens of employees are counting on the money, stability, and hours. The family owned business has five East Bay locations and they have gone to great lengths to ensure customer safety. Like most restaurants, tables are spaced six feet apart. Servers wear gloves and masks, and hand sanitizing stations are set up at all their diners. 

Shahvar is willing to meet with county representatives to work on a more consistent way of doing business and avoid a back and forth strategy.

“One week on and one week off is incredibly challenging because the guest, the people that come into your restaurant, they come in and they're spending their hard earned money and they want to have a good experience,” he said.

County officials hope the restrictions will help, but if the rising trend in coronavirus cases continues, Contra Costa could move back into the more-restrictive red tier of the state's reopening plan as soon as next week.