Judge won’t decide until Monday whether restaurants and gyms in San Diego County can reopen indoors

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San Diego County restaurants and gyms hoping to get a stay on Friday against COVID-19 restrictions banning them from operating indoors will have to wait until Monday, when a judge is expected to rule on their request for a prohibition order. temporary against state and county.Superior Court Judge Kenneth J. Medel had hoped to deliver his ruling on Friday, but after a nearly two-hour hearing he told pleading attorneys it would likely take him until Monday to render the ruling, with a Detailed analysis. Later in the day, a court spokesperson confirmed that the ruling will be finalized on Monday.

Friday afternoon’s sometimes lively hearing was the result of a lawsuit filed a week ago by four local businesses seeking to overturn some of the more stringent restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. They are seeking a temporary restraining order that, if granted, would let them return to domestic operations, which are currently banned under the county’s purple level designation for restaurants, bars that serve food, gyms , churches and cinemas.

The lawsuit is being targeted by various state officials, including Governor Gavin Newsom and San Diego County. A county attorney said Friday he was not taking a position on the request for the temporary restraining order.

The companies’ plea to the judge was straightforward, they said. Allow them to continue operating under the security protocols of the Red Level, the second most restrictive level, that San Diego County was in until a week ago.

Restaurants and gyms, the lawsuit argues, are not the culprits of the rising infection rates. They backed up their argument with an earlier appeal to the state by San Diego County public health official Dr Wilma Wooten, who at the time pointed out that the increase in cases in San Diego was not not due to areas where indoor operations are no longer permitted. .

“Restaurants are asking for nothing more than to be treated the same as other industries,” said lawyer Bruno Katz, who represents the two restaurants and the two gyms that filed the complaint, saying the State and county orders shutting down operations interfere with their rights and violate the California Constitution.

“For some reason, the state felt that restaurants and gyms were somehow more of a problem than other industries. And they don’t have any data to back it up. They can wish whatever they want, but wishes are not facts… The good actors, the people who tried to make a living in an area they did not cause, a virus that they did not ‘did not cause, were castigated as evil by the state for the way they did.

The net effect of the stricter restrictions, according to the lawsuit, will be “a total loss of income, financial ruin and a potentially permanent shutdown.”

Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Eisenberg countered that while the state recognizes the financial damage suffered by partially closed businesses, he said that does not justify reopening the domestic service at a time when many more people could be infected and potentially die.

“We’re in a different peak than anything we’ve seen in this pandemic,” Eisenberg said. “The pandemic itself is the worst pandemic, something we haven’t seen in over 100 years. We are in a very dangerous situation which is spiraling out of control, and the complainants have come here and called on you to take drastic action to change the well-thought-out rules and regulations and orders of the state’s top public health officials .

Changing the standards used by the state in designing its tiered, color-coded framework for a gradual reopening of businesses could mean the difference between life and death, he added.

“We don’t dispute the fact that these companies are in trouble, but they must show immediate and irreparable damage, and they haven’t even come close to doing so … The damage balance here is overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining these. restrictions. ”

The lawsuit was filed by Cowboy Star and Butcher Shop; Home and Away Encinitas, also a restaurant; and two gyms, Fit Athletic Club and Bear Republic. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of all restaurants and gyms in San Diego County, sought an initial order that would allow them to immediately reopen domestic operations until a later hearing can be held on the matter. issuing a preliminary injunction that would allow businesses to stay open indoors for a longer period of time.

Medel said that regardless of how his decision goes, he will always schedule a hearing on whether there should be a preliminary injunction.

The pending decision comes as San Diego County and the rest of the state see a dramatic increase in cases. The county announced a new one-day record of 1,091 new coronavirus cases on Friday as some hospitals began to see a heavier load on their intensive care units.

Katz pointed to earlier data from the county showing that restaurant and gym settings only represent a small fraction of those infected. The county’s most recent COVID-19 Watch report says restaurants and bars accounted for 9.2% of COVID-19 cases, while gyms only made up 0.4%.

Eisenberg noted that the precision of these numbers is unclear when infected people are asked where they think they have been infected.

“What if they had the wrong information when interviewing people,” Eisenberg suggested. “The state is impartial in the application of the rules. Because of this unprecedented increase in the number of cases, San Diego is not being singled out, it is not being treated with less rationality or less focused decision-making. When the numbers change, San Diego will return to the red (less restrictive) level. ”

In the meantime, San Diego County law enforcement agencies continue to crack down on companies that choose to defy the current purple level restrictions. As of Friday, the county had issued 82 cease and desist orders, according to its website.

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