Businesses around the county are reopening, but that doesn't mean it's business as usual. Restrictions are in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and business owners, especially those operating in communities with alarming case data, are doing their best to stay safe.
"So it has been a little crazy," El Cajon salon owner Michelle Pattah said of the last few months with a chuckle.
The East County native became a business owner in June.
"We went in and revamped the whole salon to make it COVID-friendly, we did put our plexiglass," said Pattah motioning to the clear barriers in between each seat.
Pattah decided to venture out on her own before the pandemic, and with her family's support she managed to secure a place in El Cajon.
"Then we had our shut down which -- it happened and we were kind of expecting it, but you know, we're back up and I can only hope we stay open," she said.
In its short existence, Pattah's shop has opened, closed and reopened again. While the back-and-forth is frustrating, the young business owner knows it's proof she should take the threat of COVID-19 seriously.
"In El Cajon it is a little scarier out here because of the numbers spiking, then they're not, then they are, so we're just trying to keep everyone safe," she said.
According to county data published Aug. 26, El Cajon's 1,717.5 total positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents is fourth-highest in the county behind Chula Vista, National City and Spring Valley. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 102,708 as of July 1, 2019.
Pattah's studio is operating on an appointment-only model, checking guests' temperatures and having them sign a waiver. Masks are also required.
Pattah says she's not just motivated to keep her family healthy, but to make them proud.
"This is a family business and everyone knows I'm all about supporting family businesses. My dad has been in business for over 35 to 40 years and I love that," she said. "I love that I'm able to follow in his footsteps even during a pandemic, I think it makes me stronger as an individual, and stronger as a business owner."
Pattah's father is her business partner and she credits him for working with her to transform the salon and build plexiglass between seats.
"Him helping me build this business is honestly a dream come true," she said.
A dream Pattah plans to build on as long as the community can follow the rules.
"He just tells me: be friendly, be kind, treat everyone the way you want to be treated and just love one another," she said.
Since the start of the pandemic El Cajon's cases make up almost 5% of the county's total cases.
Last Friday, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells called for a special City Council meeting to ask for police to stop enforcing laws and regulations related to the pandemic.