WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) — Citing a gradual downward trend in COVID-19 cases and positive test results, Contra Costa County health officials allowed nail salon and fitness gyms to reopen with outdoor operations on Friday.

Hotels, motels and short-term rental units (like Vrbo or Airbnb) were also allowed to re-open for personal or recreational travel, not just for essential business purposes.

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In neighboring Alameda County, health officials also have issued a revised shelter-in-place order which allows:

  • Opening of outdoor, shared public swimming pools and wading pools, with reduced capacities, lane limitations to allow for physical
    distancing, by appointment only (aquatic fitness classes allowed with restrictions)
  • Personal services providers including hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, skin care and waxing services, and non-medical massage, to provide services outdoors subject to applicable state and local rules.
  • Wineries with outdoor tasting facilities to provide tastings without meals.

“Based on what we are able to see, we can be cautiously optimistic that there is a gradual downward trend in county cases, testing positivity rates and hospitalizations,” Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s health officer, said in a statement.

The seven-day average number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Contra Costa dropped slightly over the past three weeks, from 103
a day on Aug. 5 to 96 a day by Monday of this week. The average percentage of tests administered in Contra Costa that come back positive has fallen from 8.8 percent on Aug. 6 to 7.4 percent on Monday.

Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County’s Interim Health Officer, said conditions in his county also allowed an expansion of the businesses allowed to re-open.

“These outdoor activities we are allowing to re-open are relatively low risk, but whenever we increase opportunities for people to mix, we see an increase in cases,” Moss said in a press statement. “Simple actions — wearing a face covering, washing your hands often, and staying six feet away from people outside your home — protect everyone.”

Farnitano did warn that key data indicators for the pandemic still remain at dangerously high levels in Contra Costa County this month.

“We need everyone to understand this is a reason to keep up what we are doing and not let down our guards,” Farnitano said.

Both Alameda and Contra Costa counties also remain on the state Department of Public Health’s county monitoring list. That prevents the re-opening of other activities such as indoor dining and in-class instruction.

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“While Alameda County remains on the state’s monitoring list, no school should be open for in-classroom instruction,” Moss said. “We recognize the vital importance of classroom learning for children and youth, but we must take a slow and measured approach. All schools should actively prepare for when students, teachers, and staff return. When schools do reopen, strong safety measures like outbreak response protocols will be necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Kim McCarl of Contra Costa County Health Services. “Every opportunity we have to see a positive trend and loosen these restrictions, we absolutely want to take.”

In Martinez Friday, Cindy Biggers got a text message that her favorite salon would be opening up bright and early on Friday. She was ready to go at 7:45 a.m.

“Because I know they might close again,” said Biggers. “So I tried to grab them when they were open.”

Lucky Nails in Martinez set up in the parking lot facing a busy road. As part of the new guidelines, they must be outdoors, take temperatures, and provide hand sanitizer. With four manicure stations and four pedicure chairs, they are at 50% capacity.

Owner Kristy Bui says they’ve been closed for five months, struggling to survive on government assistance, and welcomed opening in a parking lot even though it’s not the best environment.

“Yes, it’s not perfect, but we try the best but like I hope the best like some understand, because we can work, you know, but like to keep customer safety the best we can do,” said Bui. “But like I know we’re outside a little allow a little weather sometime it’s hard, but customer can understand about that.”

Biggers is a nurse and is on her feet all day. After five months on the front lines and sheltering in place, she has more than earned this and encouraged others who might be nervous about getting pampered.

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“I think if they are following all the rules, which this place is, everyone’s hand sanitizing they’re getting their temperature taken. Nobody’s here with any symptoms we’re outside in the fresh air,” said Biggers. “To me, it’s, it feels safe.”