San Mateo Co. warns it may be added to state's COVID-19 watch list

One Bay Area county is bucking a trend by avoiding being placed on the state’s COVID-19 watch list. But just the threat of a rollback of recent reopenings is taking a toll on some San Mateo County businesses.

Ackerly’s Hair Salon in East Palo Alto struggles with a COVID-induced slow flow of clientele. But owner Fatima Lopez says her business still has a pulse.
“The people are scared. When they come in before they would come in 30 people a day. Right now it’s 10 to 12 people all day,” said Lopez.
Her meager cash flow could take another hit if San Mateo County is placed on the state’s watch list. Currently, it’s the only Bay Area county that isn’t on the list but state officials have hinted that could change.
“It’s this balance between continuing to build up our contact tracing infrastructure, while we bring down the transmission rates through things like our dimmer actions,” said California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly.
Dimmer action is another way to express the rolling back recent reopenings. San Mateo County currently allows hair salons, barbershops, gyms, and houses of worship to operate. However, for the past several days, the number of new cases per 100,000 people has been over 100. The cutoff line is below 100.
“We believe, and I think our county health believes a conversation should be taking place,” said San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa. “That in other categories, we’re not doing great but we’re not on the watch.”
He said county officials are lobbying the state Tuesday and Wednesday to remain off the list. He cites an emergency order requiring masks, social distancing, and possible fines, as moves that have limited the spread despite the increased infection rate.
“There has to be a balanced approach. And I think the path that the county is seeking to take is the right way to go about it,” said Canepa. But Dr. Ghaly countered, “If the data trends turn to a place where we aren’t confident we will get there, there will be the potential for further dimming in parts of the state.”
At the salon and other businesses, the concern is not only for their own economic survival but that of their employees as well.
“I cannot afford to pay the rent when they close,” said Lopez.