Daryl Philipp is not kidding herself, going back to increased restrictions to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus isn’t something she’ll relish.
“It’s going to be a blow,” she said, while wrapping up a workout at Crossfit Catacombs. “There’s a lot of depression in my family, and coming here with friends to laugh with, to get those endorphins pumping and getting support from your coach really helps.”
On Friday, La Plata County went to the more restrictive Safer at Home Level Orange status from Level Yellow because of increased COVID-19 cases. The status change means tighter restrictions on businesses, including reduced capacity for indoor operations, from 50% to 25% occupancy.
Philipp said CrossFit did a superb job of providing virtual classes and workouts – even getting her to workout at home for the first time in her life. Still, something was missing.
“It’s not just the physical fitness, it’s the community, being with friends, the support,” she said.
CrossFit Catacombs owner Tracie Holcomb said if it feels right to her to move to increased restrictions given the rise in COVID-19 cases identified locally.
“We’ll go down to 25% capacity, which means no more than 10 people at a time, but that feels like the right thing to do if the kids can’t be at school,” she said.
In May, as stay-at-home restrictions were lifted, the gym began offering virtual classes and personal training sessions. It is those kinds of practices that will return now with increased restrictions in place.
“What we learned the last time is that people still need human contact. We can’t gather in groups, but we keep in touch with personal sessions and online,” Holcomb said. “People appreciate that, and when the time is right, our members will be ready to return. But they still want accountability. We’ll still connect and check in on them with social media, texting and online.”
Misty Tucson, owner of Urban Grace Studio, said she’s learned to deal with uncertainty since opening her salon in January just before the outbreak of the virus.
She figures she’ll be able to adjust to new restrictions. Already, she purchased plastic dividers to put between her chairs, which were placed 6 feet apart because of the initial distancing requirements.
Like Holcomb, Tuscon said it’s best for the salon and people throughout the community to adhere to stricter restrictions now to stop rising transmission rates before things get worse.
“I just hope we don’t get to the point where we have to shut down,” she said.
Already, with Durango School District 9-R moving to all-remote learning, her stylists have reduced work hours because they need to be home with their children. After 9-R’s move, Tucson said it seems almost inevitable that businesses also would have to scale back.
“We have five people who work here, and all of our schedules have changed at least three times since all this happened, but that’s fine. First and foremost you have to take care of your family,” she said.
Claire Ninde, spokeswoman with San Juan Basin Public Health, said some additional practices that businesses can adopt during Level Orange beyond limiting indoor capacity to 25% include:
Encouraging employee health screenings.Encouraging sick employees to stay home.Encouraging remote work whenever possible.Sanitizing high-touch areas frequently.Creating special hours for people who are at higher risk of COVID-19 to minimize personal contacts.Requiring gloves and face masks.Providing hand sanitizer.Adhering to 6 feet of physical distance.SJBPH has put out a FAQ flyer for businesses that says: “Some of these changes will represent a significant decrease in capacity. We know that this will be challenging for some establishments. We are not moving into Level Orange lightly – it is urgently needed to reduce close contacts between people at workplaces, customer spaces and special events.”
Tim Walsworth, executive director of Durango’s Business Improvement District, said certain sectors will be affected more than others, but even shops, where capacity limits aren’t a big issue during the shoulder season will feel some pain if limits remain in place in December, prime Christmas shopping time.
“There might not be a giant impact right now, during the shoulder season,” he said. “Some shops may already be limiting capacity to 25%, but the problem comes when holiday shopping arrives and you’d like to have more people in there.”
Moving to Level Orange has canceled this year’s Singing with Santa night Nov. 27. BID had already scaled back the event from the usual 2,000 participants to 160 attendees based on reservations, but even that has proved untenable.
BID is bringing back its online store for members to use as a portal into online commerce. Numerous business-support groups also are reinvigorating the La Plata County Economic Recovery Task Force to brainstorm ideas to help businesses during Level Orange.
One scary aspect of the current COVID-19 spike is that it comes without the assistance of federal aid.
“When this happened before, fairly quickly the federal government came together and figured out ways to help. ... Right now, we don’t have anything, and I’m hard-pressed to see that coming together anytime soon,” Walsworth said.
Capacity limits will be especially hard on restaurants, which have been operating at 50% capacity, but will be even more hard-pressed to keep dining rooms open at 25%, Walsworth said.
Ed Kileen, Grassburger co-founder and chief financial officer, said he’s talking with the city about enclosing the patio of his restaurant to provide extra winter seating.
But he noted restaurants across town, including Grassburger, might be looking at going back to takeout, delivery and pickup options and closing dining rooms because numbers don’t add up.
“In New Mexico, we’ve already gone to just pickup and delivery when they went to 25%,” he said. “And, yeah, it becomes a challenge to try to schedule labor and put all the other pieces in place, when you have fewer customers. So takeout is definitely a consideration that we may move to. It really depends on efficiency.”
One bit of good news, Kileen said, is that during November, when a big proportion of Grassburger’s customers are locals, the restaurant has noticed a growing use of takeout and delivery services.
“I’m like everyone else: I’ve got COVID fatigue,” Kileen said. “We’ll pivot on the fly like everyone else, but it’s a challenge. But it’s where we’re at. And we’ll get to the other side. We’re all just hoping it’s sooner rather than later.”