Chamber: COVID controls should stay local

Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

The executive director of the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce stated in an email Monday that local businesses are understandably disappointed and concerned with the state’s recent roll-back on COVID-19 protocols regarding certain industries that can generate large in-door crowds.
“I know that the theater and bars are really disappointed, based on things I have seen on social media,” Tawni Thomson said. 
After a spike in COVID-19 cases statewide around the Fourth of July holiday, Gov. Gavin Newsom reimposed restrictions on dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, family entertainment (bowling alleys, arcades, etc.) and indoor and outdoor operations of bars, brewpubs breweries and pubs.
Since then the Inyo County Board of Supervisors has sent a letter to the state requesting local control based on Inyo County’s COVID-19-related data, including the number of cases, testing capabilities and hospital capacity.
Thomson said she hopes the county gets a good word from the state.
“It would sure be good if we could manage our situation from a local perspective – according to local stats and local situations,” Thomson said. “It doesn’t seem logical to treat our little Twin Theatre the same as one of those huge multi-plex mall theaters in LA or San Francisco.”
 She said for restaurants, it really seems like take-out and delivery will be the ticket for some time to come. 
“Even if dine-in or patio seating is available, national consumer sentiment polls say most consumers will prefer to take-out,” she said. “This preference is not likely to change until there is a vaccine or reliable medication to treat the virus. I would certainly encourage every eatery to get an online ordering system up and running as soon as possible. It is the new ‘normal’ and it will be imperative to the survival and success for all restaurants.”
Thomson said she has heard from some businesses in the personal services industry, such as salons and barbershops, whose owners are grateful that Inyo our County isn’t on the state’s monitoring list so they could remain open. 
“They’ve also said they really hope people can continue to be responsible with face coverings and social distancing so our numbers don’t move upward, putting us on the watch list and shutting them down again,” she said.
Inyo County need only look to its northern neighbor, Mono County, to see the impacts that being on the state’s monitoring list can bring.
Thomson said in speaking with many hotel and resort owners, they say that 99% of their guests are 100% happy to comply with the face covering rule. Customers say they understand and don’t want to do anything to harm locals or jeopardize their chance to visit again. 
“It seems that the little bit of anti-mask friction is occurring in eateries and retail stores and I’ve mainly heard it’s locals that don’t want to wear the face coverings,” she said.
 Thomson said the Bishop Chamber of Commerce is working now on distributing free personal protective equipment to local businesses that was provided through CalOES and Inyo County. 
“We’re hoping this helps the small businesses that were unable to source or afford masks and hand sanitizer,” Thomson said. “Now, if an employee or customer comes in without a mask, they can offer them a free one with a smile. Yes – you can still tell when people smile if you look at their eyes!”