COVID-19 – Time to re-open businesses in Solano? Officials say not yet…

Re-opening business in Solano depends on state easing restrictions

Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, April 23, 2020
Deanna Deckard is owner/broker at Windermere Greystone Real Estate. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — The independent mayor of Las Vegas wants the casinos reopened, and more than a handful of states have already moved in that direction.

Sutter County supervisors have ordered their top administrator to send a letter to the governor calling for him to ease some of the business restrictions, and then coordinate with neighboring counties about how to do that.

Not all Solano County officials are convinced the time is right.

“What does that look like?” Supervisor Erin Hannigan asked, rhetorically. She called the concept “frightening.”

“We’re not there yet, and we are following the lead of our governor and, of course, Dr. (Bela) Matyas,” Hannigan said of the county’s public health officer. She said safety must come first.

“It could be a worse situation than it is now, so we have to be very careful about what that looks like,” the board chairwoman said.

Matyas said the county is actually ready to reopen businesses as soon as the state gives permission, and had the county had the same testing capacity it has now back when the outbreak started, the county could be looking at the number of cases on the decline.

“We have been planning for staged relaxation for a long time,” Matyas said.

There have been daily discussions about how that can be accomplished, he said.

Matyas said it would likely come in stages, with recreational opportunities being first in line, including parks and golf, followed by businesses that can more easily control social distancing. Then there would be those businesses where that distancing would be more difficult to achieve, and finally large gatherings.

“We have no plans to go slower than the state,” Matyas said.

But he cautioned such an action by the state is not likely to happen before mid-May, and even then there has to be a strategy that takes in to consideration the differences of smaller rural counties and larger, more urbanized counties.

Matyas said there are three direct points of control that must be in place: protecting hospitals from a surge of the disease; contact tracing; and protecting the most vulnerable populations, such as the fragile elderly.

He said Solano County is prepared to handle all three of those issues right now.

Vacaville Mayor Ron Rowlett

Vacaville Mayor Ron Rowlett said he does favor opening some businesses sooner than later, but agrees a strategy needs to be in place. He also said that he has had conversations with some supervisors, though he would not say whom, and the city has met with the county administration multiple times on the topic.

“We have businesses in town that are older than (50 years) that are going to lose everything,” Rowlett said.

He said the city has heard from a number of business owners who are eager to reopen their doors, and will follow whatever rules the county and city set out.

Suisun City Mayor Lori Wilson said the city is following the guidelines set out by the state and the county. She said officials have talked about what steps will need to be taken once those health orders are lifted or eased in any way. She said no specifics have been determined.

“We don’t want to be regressive in any way,” Wilson said. “We’ve done a good job flattening the curve . . . and we want to be safe.”

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said he is “ambivalent” on the topic.

He said he understands why the local business owners want to get back to business and make some money, and that is commendable. But he said the city needs to be cautious and fall on the side of health and safety.

“I don’t think we have enough evidence that we could do it on a large scale,” Price said.

He said he is buoyed by the fact residents seem to have accepted the social distancing platform, whereas just two or three weeks ago they seemed “unhappy and irritable.”

“I think that is a good sign. I think the people in Fairfield are taking it in stride, and that’s a good thing,” Price said.

That will help if and when businesses do start reopening, he said.

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce sent out a 14-question survey to its members that delves into a range of topics related to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19. The topics include the issue of restarting the economy.

“Do you believe we are ready to start re-opening nonessential businesses?” is one of the questions.

On a broader scale, the chamber asked, “With the information you have now, when do you feel it would be best to resume normal small-group social activities?”

The results of the survey have not been made available. Chamber executive Debi Tavey could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Deanna Deckard, owner broker of Windermere Greystoke Real Estate on Texas Street in Fairfield, said she believes the time is right to begin opening up certain kinds of businesses.

“In my opinion, for all of us to keep moving forward and for people to keep their heads above water, I think we have to ease some of those business restrictions,” Deckard said.

She understands not all businesses could be part of that, but she feels there are some that can control their clientele numbers and other Covid-19 socialization concerns.

Deckard said things are OK for real estate businesses now that the industry is considered an essential business. It took some lobbying to take if off the nonessential list, but it is an industry that has been using technology for a long time and physical contact with clients is no longer a necessity.

“Things are going OK in the real estate world; we’re marching right along,” the 17-year realty veteran said.

While the numbers for April are not in, yet, she noted that sales in March totaled 339, which is only slightly lower than the 365 that closed in March 2019. She said interest rates are driving the market.

“The interest rates are just too good,” Deckard said.

The bigger issue, she said, has been the lack of inventory, which has been an issue for several years. Listings for April are particularly low.

Deckard said most of the activity has been with first-time buyers and those buyers who are looking to move up in the market. The mix of Solano County residents or those coming into the county to take advantage of lower prices remains about the same as it has been.

“I’m optimistic for Solano County, for us,” Deckard said. “Our pricing is such that we are more affordable than other places in the Bay Area.”

She said house prices have fallen a bit, but it is still a good market for sellers and buyers.

Most people who have the novel coronavirus experience only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Some people, especially older adults and those with underlying health problems, experience more severe illness such as pneumonia and at times, death.

Three people have died thus far in Solano County as a result of Covid-19. The vast majority of people recover. The World Health Organization reports people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.