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Grateful to return to normalcy, small businesses are hopeful — and still keeping masks on

Business capacity limits, required masks for vaccinated individuals removed on California's reopening day

Jeff Selzer, general manager of Palo Alto Bicycles, plans to require employees to continue wearing masks inside the store. Photo by Alicia Mies.

June 15 marked California's reopening day and, with it, an official relaxation of the state's COVID-19 restrictions. But while the state has lifted capacity limits, physical distancing rules and mask restrictions for vaccinated individuals, the rules on the ground didn't look a whole lot different on Tuesday.

At Palo Alto Bicycles on University Avenue, customers were still expected to wear masks. Jeff Selzer, the store's general manager, said that it's been difficult to fully understand state, county and city public health guidelines for businesses. Amid a lack of communication and confusing government websites, Selzer decided to err on the side of caution. He taped a paper onto his storefront sign that stated as much: "Due to the lack of clear direction for local and state authorities regarding mask requirements and in acknowledgement our own lack of credentials in the fields of infectious disease and public policy, Palo Alto Bicycles will continue to require employees and politely request customers to wear masks when in the store. Thank you."

"The fact that today is such a major, significant event for the state and it's hard to find official information is frustrating," Selzer said. "There's all kinds of news reports out, but what about what the state or county or city officially says? That's been harder to find."

"My understanding is that my consumer can walk in today without a mask as long as they've been fully vaccinated, but how do you verify that? That's the first unanswered question," Selzer said.

Overall, businesses owners said Tuesday, the state's reopening has brought a mixture of confusion, anticipation and joy.

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Lubna Lassaque, a managing partner of Chantal Guillon on University, echoed Selzer's confusion. To reach a definitive answer about what to do with her business, she emailed to schedule a meeting with a representative from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

A sign posted outside of Palo Alto Bicycles in part reads that the business "will continue to require employees and politely request customers to wear masks when in the store." Photo by Alicia Mies.

Pastry shop Mademoiselle Colette's owner Debora Ferrand said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city always send a letter about new updates to businesses, but this time there was nothing.

"We don't know if employees can take off the masks or not, but overall, we are very happy to be able to see our customers' faces again."

Some business owners have safety concerns about unvaccinated customers coming in without masks. While unvaccinated individuals are still required to wear masks in indoor public settings, it's ultimately up to businesses to choose how to enforce the rule. But Steve Oberhauser, an owner of shoe repair shop The Cobblery on California Avenue in Palo Alto, said that there really isn't a way to police it.

While he is looking forward to having fewer confrontations with customers who refuse to wear the previously mandated masks, he has decided to keep his own mask on out of concern for his and other customers' health and because he has simply gotten used to wearing one. Plus, he said, the masks are helpful when working in front of a hand cobbler machine.

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Since the pandemic, business at the shoe repair shop has been down 40%, and Oberhauser is eagerly anticipating new and returning customers emerging out of work-from-home mode and back into the office.

With neighboring companies like Visa Research gradually reopening their offices, Oberhauser hopes to see his store packed with people.

Steve Oberhauser, an owner of The Cobblery on California Avenue, says the Palo Alto shoe repair shop has seen business go down by 40%. Photo by Alicia Mies.

"I want to go home every night and just be like, 'Wow, we were so busy today' and look forward to repeating it the next day," he said.

Selzer likewise relies on people working in downtown Palo Alto companies.

"We're having a tough time because people used to be walking back and forth five days a week from the Caltrain station to work and periodically they'd pop into the store and buy something," he said. "For us, they'd bring their bike on the train, bring it into the shop and have us work on it while they were at work and then pick it up at the end of the day. That's business we've lost."

Salvador Margarito, owner of Mountain View restaurant Doppio Zero, said that while the loss of nearby office employees coming in for lunch has harmed his business, the closing of Castro Street has certainly helped. The added space on the street in front of Doppio Zero can accommodate dozens of people.

Doppia Zero customers dine at tables placed on the street in downtown Mountain View on July 2, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Likewise, the closure of University Avenue in Palo Alto to car traffic has aided restaurants but has become a cause for complaint by retailers, who say they've lost foot traffic. Selzer, however, sides with those who want to keep University closed to cars for now.

"I can't say that opening University wouldn't benefit my business, but I know that it would harm the businesses that are needing it right now like the restaurants. They just had a solid year of losing money. I don't care that they get an extra benefit of 25 more tables outside and the 25 inside. That's great! Fill them all," he said.

"Let these guys make some of their money back because they've been hammered this year. I'm all for opening things back up, but that's one thing I think they should leave in place until the end of the year."

Even if June 15 hasn't brought a sudden influx of customers, business operators say it represents a fresh new start.

Men get their hair cut at Menlo Park Barber Shop on Avy Avenue in Menlo Park on June 15, 2021. Photo by Alicia Mies.

Sam Valero, a barber at the Menlo Park Barber Shop, said that, considering he had been cutting hair outside his shop in August, the return to normal operations indoors has been a welcome change. Relaxed mask restrictions also means that it's easier for Valero to cleanly cut hair around his client's ears and back of the head.

While Valero is happy to see old customers coming back into his shop after 15 months without a fresh haircut, he also said that there are still a lot of old faces he hasn't seen yet.

"Because of the pandemic, you don't know who your clientele is anymore. You don't know who's coming back," Valero said. "We've also received a lot of new customers who were looking for a new barber. So it's like this huge reshuffling of clientele that's occurred."

David Smith, an employee at the Performance Gaines gym in Palo Alto, echoed a similar sentiment of relief and excitement for the future. Capacity restrictions eased a bit last month, and like many other businesses, the gym is operating with an honor code — unvaccinated people are still expected to wear masks, although there will be no official enforcing of that rule.

"It's going to take some getting used to, but it definitely feels like a weight has been lifted," Smith said. "No pun intended."

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Grateful to return to normalcy, small businesses are hopeful — and still keeping masks on

Business capacity limits, required masks for vaccinated individuals removed on California's reopening day

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 16, 2021, 9:41 am

June 15 marked California's reopening day and, with it, an official relaxation of the state's COVID-19 restrictions. But while the state has lifted capacity limits, physical distancing rules and mask restrictions for vaccinated individuals, the rules on the ground didn't look a whole lot different on Tuesday.

At Palo Alto Bicycles on University Avenue, customers were still expected to wear masks. Jeff Selzer, the store's general manager, said that it's been difficult to fully understand state, county and city public health guidelines for businesses. Amid a lack of communication and confusing government websites, Selzer decided to err on the side of caution. He taped a paper onto his storefront sign that stated as much: "Due to the lack of clear direction for local and state authorities regarding mask requirements and in acknowledgement our own lack of credentials in the fields of infectious disease and public policy, Palo Alto Bicycles will continue to require employees and politely request customers to wear masks when in the store. Thank you."

"The fact that today is such a major, significant event for the state and it's hard to find official information is frustrating," Selzer said. "There's all kinds of news reports out, but what about what the state or county or city officially says? That's been harder to find."

"My understanding is that my consumer can walk in today without a mask as long as they've been fully vaccinated, but how do you verify that? That's the first unanswered question," Selzer said.

Overall, businesses owners said Tuesday, the state's reopening has brought a mixture of confusion, anticipation and joy.

Lubna Lassaque, a managing partner of Chantal Guillon on University, echoed Selzer's confusion. To reach a definitive answer about what to do with her business, she emailed to schedule a meeting with a representative from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

Pastry shop Mademoiselle Colette's owner Debora Ferrand said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city always send a letter about new updates to businesses, but this time there was nothing.

"We don't know if employees can take off the masks or not, but overall, we are very happy to be able to see our customers' faces again."

Some business owners have safety concerns about unvaccinated customers coming in without masks. While unvaccinated individuals are still required to wear masks in indoor public settings, it's ultimately up to businesses to choose how to enforce the rule. But Steve Oberhauser, an owner of shoe repair shop The Cobblery on California Avenue in Palo Alto, said that there really isn't a way to police it.

While he is looking forward to having fewer confrontations with customers who refuse to wear the previously mandated masks, he has decided to keep his own mask on out of concern for his and other customers' health and because he has simply gotten used to wearing one. Plus, he said, the masks are helpful when working in front of a hand cobbler machine.

Since the pandemic, business at the shoe repair shop has been down 40%, and Oberhauser is eagerly anticipating new and returning customers emerging out of work-from-home mode and back into the office.

With neighboring companies like Visa Research gradually reopening their offices, Oberhauser hopes to see his store packed with people.

"I want to go home every night and just be like, 'Wow, we were so busy today' and look forward to repeating it the next day," he said.

Selzer likewise relies on people working in downtown Palo Alto companies.

"We're having a tough time because people used to be walking back and forth five days a week from the Caltrain station to work and periodically they'd pop into the store and buy something," he said. "For us, they'd bring their bike on the train, bring it into the shop and have us work on it while they were at work and then pick it up at the end of the day. That's business we've lost."

Salvador Margarito, owner of Mountain View restaurant Doppio Zero, said that while the loss of nearby office employees coming in for lunch has harmed his business, the closing of Castro Street has certainly helped. The added space on the street in front of Doppio Zero can accommodate dozens of people.

Likewise, the closure of University Avenue in Palo Alto to car traffic has aided restaurants but has become a cause for complaint by retailers, who say they've lost foot traffic. Selzer, however, sides with those who want to keep University closed to cars for now.

"I can't say that opening University wouldn't benefit my business, but I know that it would harm the businesses that are needing it right now like the restaurants. They just had a solid year of losing money. I don't care that they get an extra benefit of 25 more tables outside and the 25 inside. That's great! Fill them all," he said.

"Let these guys make some of their money back because they've been hammered this year. I'm all for opening things back up, but that's one thing I think they should leave in place until the end of the year."

Even if June 15 hasn't brought a sudden influx of customers, business operators say it represents a fresh new start.

Sam Valero, a barber at the Menlo Park Barber Shop, said that, considering he had been cutting hair outside his shop in August, the return to normal operations indoors has been a welcome change. Relaxed mask restrictions also means that it's easier for Valero to cleanly cut hair around his client's ears and back of the head.

While Valero is happy to see old customers coming back into his shop after 15 months without a fresh haircut, he also said that there are still a lot of old faces he hasn't seen yet.

"Because of the pandemic, you don't know who your clientele is anymore. You don't know who's coming back," Valero said. "We've also received a lot of new customers who were looking for a new barber. So it's like this huge reshuffling of clientele that's occurred."

David Smith, an employee at the Performance Gaines gym in Palo Alto, echoed a similar sentiment of relief and excitement for the future. Capacity restrictions eased a bit last month, and like many other businesses, the gym is operating with an honor code — unvaccinated people are still expected to wear masks, although there will be no official enforcing of that rule.

"It's going to take some getting used to, but it definitely feels like a weight has been lifted," Smith said. "No pun intended."

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2021 at 9:58 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 16, 2021 at 9:58 am

Mask confusion reigns. Aside from that though, it would be wonderful to think we are back to normal which obviously we are not. People are still working remotely, traffic although increasing is far from prepandemic norms and we have lost so many businesses as well as things like our shuttle that the different normal has not become apparent.

For these reasons, any decisions made on important issues such as housing, office space, business tax, etc. should be delayed at least a year in my opinion until we have some idea what the different normal will be in the years ahead.


Jim Jeffries
Registered user
Southgate
on Jun 17, 2021 at 9:25 am
Jim Jeffries, Southgate
Registered user
on Jun 17, 2021 at 9:25 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2021 at 7:55 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 19, 2021 at 7:55 pm

Vaccines and being in good shape are the solution. Masks were just a stop gap [portion removed.]


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2021 at 1:08 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jun 26, 2021 at 1:08 pm

“Masks were just a stop gap and unfortunately didn’t prove to be that effective.”

A recent study published in Health Affairs, for example, compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time. The first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage-points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage-points.

Another study looked at coronavirus deaths across 198 countries and found that those with cultural norms or government policies favoring mask-wearing had lower death rates.

Two compelling case reports also suggest that masks can prevent transmission in high-risk scenarios, said Chin-Hong and Rutherford. In one case, a man flew from China to Toronto and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. He had a dry cough and wore a mask on the flight, and all 25 people closest to him on the flight tested negative for COVID-19. In another case, in late May, two hair stylists in Missouri had close contact with 140 clients while sick with COVID-19. Everyone wore a mask and none of the clients tested positive.

Masks work. It’s also masking and social distancing used in combination together! I wonder who politicized them? Gee.. let me guess…

Source:
Web Link


Gerry Philbin
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Gerry Philbin, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 26, 2021 at 1:15 pm
John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jun 27, 2021 at 9:28 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jun 27, 2021 at 9:28 am

I believed the science (CDC, WHO, CA GOV, SCC HO) when they said science shows I should wear a mask, and guess what?, when the same science and authorities said the fully vaccinated no longer have to wear a mask, I STILL believed in science. Those that believed the science before, but not now, and still wear a mask confuse me. Maybe they just like wearing a mask?

[Portion removed.]


Larry Costa
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Jun 27, 2021 at 9:39 am
Larry Costa, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Jun 27, 2021 at 9:39 am
The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2021 at 11:18 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jun 27, 2021 at 11:18 am

No. Those who still wore masks likely took an extra precaution and don’t need to be judged. They were actually very smart to do so. About 100 epidemiologists interviewed by the New York Times almost universally agreed we would be in masks until the end of 2021. They are now reporting the Delta Variant spreads within 5 to 10 seconds of contact. The WHO just announced for everyone to mask up again due to variant spread while the CDC came out and said “those fully vaccinated can still get sick from the variants.” The CDC likely unmasked everyone way too soon for economic purposes of course, and now can not go back on it.

Sources:
Web Link

Web Link

“Follow The Science.” Classic.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jun 27, 2021 at 12:09 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jun 27, 2021 at 12:09 pm

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