Purple Tier Fallout: Business Owners React to Tighter Restrictions in Ramona

At least one restaurant owner says he will defy public health order cutting off indoor dining.

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As purple tier restrictions go into effect, business owners in a community with one of San Diego County’s highest COVID-19 case rates are reacting drastically differently to the updated health order.

The new restrictions, which go into effect at midnight on Friday evening, mean that restaurants can no longer serve diners indoors.

Michelle Rains, who’s owned Cheers of Ramona since 2016, will abide by the health order. She’s hoping customers will brave the cold weather and eat outdoors.

“We can operate outside, but are people going to sit outside when it’s 45 degrees at night? I don’t know,” Rains said.

A few miles east on state Route 79, though, Meat Monsters Grill owner Anthony Andrews said he will remain open for indoor dining.

“I’m trying to take a stand, and I need unity among other restaurant owners that are at their wit's end and with the decisions being made by the government,” Andrews said.

While Rains understands and supports Andrews' choice, she said she has too much to lose if she were to stay open and get cited by the health department.

“I totally understand that standpoint," Rains said. "If I had less on the line -- my liquor license and whatnot, and my whole family’s investment -- I would probably gamble with them, but we have a lot to lose if we get our liquor license revoked,” Rains said.

The threshold for the purple tier is 7.0 case rate per 100,000 population. Ramona’s case rate between Oct. 24-31 was 16.2. Over the previous seven-day period, Ramona’s case rate was 12.7. The increase was due to 23 new cases in the city with a population of 20,292.

The high case rate came as a surprise to business owners Rains and Andrews.

“We haven’t had any COVID, and, honestly, I grew up here my whole life," Andrews said. "I don’t know anybody personally in Ramona that has contracted the virus.”

“I read somewhere that people were getting sick at their workplaces, so maybe the bigger, larger offices get closed down versus smaller businesses,” Rains said.

In fact, the case-rate data provided by the county is based on where the infected patients live and not where the virus was contracted. In Ramona, many people work outside of the community.

Meanwhile, according to the superintendent of the Ramona Unified School District, 18 students have tested positive since Oct. 30.

Superintendent Theresa Grace said the number represents less than 0.5% of the student population and that all of the cases were contracted off-campus.

Grace said that the school district has adopted a blended-model teaching structure, with students attending school two days a week and virtually learning the other three days.

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