Pop open a bottle, California wine tasting rooms reopening

California wineries started uncorking their bottles and welcoming people back to their tasting rooms Friday as the state’s $145 billion tourism industry gears up with hotels, zoos, museums, and aquariums also allowed to reopen.
With COVID-19 cases in the state still growing, the tourism industry is trying to balance how to implement safety measures to control a pandemic without ruining the fun.
Hotels will limit people lounging by pools and nix breakfast buffets for now. There will be no double-decker safari buses packed with tourists rolling through the San Diego Zoo, nor animal shows that draw crowds.
The zoo instead is using its buses to hold moving shows that will glide past people standing on green circles to keep them 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Every visitor over the age of 2 will be required to wear face coverings.
Wine tasting rooms also are encouraging masks and making room for physical distancing. Many are requiring appointments for tastings. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced later Friday that starting June 19 the state would allow Californians in approved counties to resume getting manicures, tattoos and massages with strict cleaning requirements.
Newsom was the nation’s first governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19. He gradually started lifting the orders in May, allowing retail stores and restaurants to reopen. He soon added churches and hair salons with restrictions.
Stay-at-home orders are estimated to have cost the state economy $72 billion in revenue from tourism and more than 600,000 hospitality jobs, according to Visit California, the state’s tourism marketing organization.
The list of businesses cleared to reopen Friday included movie theaters, bars, and gyms and is the most expansive yet, though counties have the ultimate say on which stores and services can open their doors.
In Southern California, cities relaxed social distancing rules this week to allow sunbathing and other passive activities at Laguna Beach, San Clemente, and Seal Beach. Previously, visitors could swim, run, and surf but couldn’t stay in one place.
Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s public health director, urged businesses that choose to reopen to closely follow the social distancing protocols for doing so.
“These are not recommendations. These are requirements,” she said. “If there is not adherence to the protocols, if we are not taking the basic steps to protect workers and then to protect customers and visitors, this will be way riskier than it needs to be.”
Meanwhile, cases of the coronavirus in the state are still climbing. On Friday, California’s department of health reported 141,983 cases and 4,943 deaths. The White House has recommended states see a 14-day downward trajectory before easing restrictions.
California’s cases have continued to tick up since May 30, when the state’s seven-day average was at 2,321 cases compared to a seven-day average of 2,726 as of Friday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Those who have tested positive include a manager at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa near Palm Springs, which reopened in late May with required masks and temperature checks. Another 11 employees who interacted with the manager are being tested, the Press-Enterprise of Riverside reported Friday.
Health officials are monitoring at least 10 counties because of concerns about the virus.
Some areas are choosing to go at a slower pace than what the governor has green-lighted. San Francisco reopened outdoor restaurant dining on Friday. Hotels there will not receive tourists until August.
Jennifer Bennett, co-owner of Zazie, said she was “thrilled” to see tables being served again.
“None of us got into the hospitality business to pass out to-go bags through a window,” she said. “So it’s great to see people actually enjoying themselves and eating off real plates and not landfill.”
Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board President & CEO Ernest Wooden Jr. said the tourism industry is ready for the challenge.
Hotels are using electrostatic sprayers and LED technology to clean, like at Pendry Hotel in San Diego, which also placed rowers and fitness equipment in rooms for guests to use on-demand.
Many attractions, like San Diego’s famed zoo, are going slowly. On Friday, it opened to only employees and volunteers and their families. Next week, members and donors can visit, and then on June 20 it will open to the public.
Volunteers armed with disinfectant will stand ready to wipe down railings as visitors return to see the animals, many of which had babies while the zoo was closed.
There will be no behind-the-scene tours nor opportunities for tourists to feed the rhino or giraffes.
“We have a responsibility to continue to do our part to fight the spread of COVID for sure, but we also have to balance that with the interest in reopening,” said zoo director Dwight Scott.
“People need to be outdoors and active and to have a peaceful experience,” he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Some museums, like the USS Midway in San Diego, will be checking everyone’s temperatures. Visitors also will be required to follow established one-way routes on the aircraft carrier, which reopens July 1 and has installed more than 170 hand-sanitizer stations and plastic glass barriers between sinks and urinals in the bathrooms.
South Lake Tahoe said Friday that it’s ready for tourists but advises people “to go big on distancing, masks matter, plan to change plans, no germs or anything else left behind, expect closures, and if sniffles stay home.”
Disneyland is seeking permission to reopen July 17, though theme parks are not cleared to reopen yet nor are concert venues, night clubs, and nail salons.
Utah and Oregon put any further reopening of their economies on hold amid a spike in coronavirus cases, but there was no turning back Friday in such states as Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona despite flashing warning signs there, too.
One by one, states are weighing the health risks from the virus against the economic damage from the stay-at-home orders that have thrown millions out of work over the past three months.
And many governors are coming down on the side of jobs, even though an Associated Press analysis this week found that cases are rising in nearly half the states — trend experts attributed in part to the gradual reopening of businesses over the past few weeks.
Texas hit highs this week for hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases, prompting Houston’s top county official, Lina Hidalgo, to warn that “we may be approaching the precipice of a disaster.” Meanwhile, the state went ahead with allowing restaurants to expand eat-in dining Friday to 75% of capacity, up from 50%.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve been concerned,” 32-year-old Renata Liggins said as she settled in front of a plate of brisket at Black’s Barbecue in Austin and the number of people now hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas climbed to its highest level yet, at more than 2,100. But “it just feels I can finally breathe a little bit.”
Alabama, which began reopening in early May, has seen more than a quarter of the state’s 23,000 cases come in the past two weeks as Republican Gov. Kay Ivey emphasized personal responsibility.
Arkansas, which has seen both hospitalizations and active cases more than double since Memorial Day, reported its largest one-day spike in new coronavirus cases Friday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at least 11,547 people in the state have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 731 cases over Thursday.
Hutchinson said he expected more increases in the coming week but would press ahead with plans to further ease virus restrictions on businesses starting Monday. Capacity limits will be increased for restaurants, bars, theaters, and other businesses while other social distancing restrictions remain in place.
“Regardless of what we see in the next week, we made the right decision to go ahead and lift some of these restrictions so we don’t cause more damage to people’s lives and their livelihood,” Hutchinson said.
Arizona has become one of the most troubling hot spots in the U.S. as new cases have surged to more than 1,000 a day, up from fewer than 400 before stay-at-home orders expired in mid-May.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has given assurances the health care system can handle it, and Arizona Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said: “We are not going to be able to stop the spread, and so we can’t stop living as well.”
California, which implemented the country’s first statewide stay-at-home order, entered the most expansive phase of its gradual reopening Friday. Wineries started uncorking their bottles and welcoming people back to their tasting rooms, and hotels, zoos, museums, and aquariums were also allowed to reopen. San Francisco restaurants resumed outdoor dining, and the San Diego Zoo opened on a limited basis.
Cases are rising as the state expands testing, but health officials say key metrics to watch are the positivity rate among those tested and hospitalizations, and both have remained relatively steady in recent weeks as businesses gradually reopened. The state has “guardrails and cautions” in place that give officials the confidence to continue reopening, said Mark Ghaly, the state’s health, and human services secretary.
Health officials in Oklahoma warned Friday that a spike in coronavirus cases in the Tulsa area is linked to indoor events and people who attend such gatherings should take health precautions. Tulsa Health Department spokesperson Leanne Stephens said an undetermined number of cases were linked to two recent indoor gatherings but declined to name them.
The warning comes a week before President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally at the city’s BOK Center, which has a listed seating capacity of more than 19,000. Stephens said the warning was unrelated to the rally.
So far, only a small number of governors have shown a willingness to retreat or at least hit pause.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said they would halt lifting further restrictions for the time being as new cases flare.
“As I’ve said before, reopening comes with real risk,” Brown said in announcing a one-week pause that will affect, among other places, Portland, the state’s biggest city.
She said the increase in positive test results was caused in part by the reopening of some counties. Oregon reported 178 new cases Thursday, the highest count since the outbreak began.
Elsewhere across the country, Iowa allowed bars, restaurants, theaters, and other businesses to pack in more customers. Swimming pools, senior centers, and adult daycare centers were also cleared to open back up. Iowa is still seeing hot spots, especially near meatpacking plants.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott “is making pretty clear at this point he wants the economy to open,” a worried Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “My hope is that when he sees what kind of surge there’s going to be, he does act at a state level.”
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