Workers react to moving into the orange tier

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Patrons eat an array of meals in the patio area of the Food Lab in downtown Riverside on April 3. (Daniel Hernandez | Viewpoints)

By Isabel Whitsett

Riverside County has moved into the orange tier and, while worry lingers, many workers are looking forward to more hours on the clock.

The orange tier allows some indoor business operations to open with modifications. 

The moderate risk level lessens capacity restrictions for most social settings, such as gyms and restaurants. There are no capacity restrictions for retail stores in the orange tier. 

   Cynthia Carlos, Aéropostale manager at Riverside’s Tyler Galleria Mall, is not in full support of having no restrictions just yet.

  “I don’t think it’s the best idea,” she said. “A lot of people don’t follow social distancing rules in the store as is, so it’s a little risky.” 

   Retail stores allowed a maximum capacity of 50% in the red tier and 25% capacity in the purple tier.

Celeste Dominguez, Zumiez manager at the Tyler Mall, said people have mistaken the progression of tiers for safety.

“People perceive this shift into the red tier as having freedom to do whatever they want,” she said. “But we aren’t entirely safe yet.” 

   However, Dominguez is not entirely opposed to the move into the orange tier.

“We missed out on a whole year of our lives,” she said. “Being able to go out and do the things we’ve missed out on will be nice to do again.”

   Elizabeth Dickson, a Moreno Valley parks and recreation worker, said gyms, retail stores, amusement parks and restaurants opening and allowing a higher capacity of people means more hours and money for essential workers. 

   “When COVID-19 started, I had a lot of hours taken away from me,” Dickson said. 

She added that the shift into the orange tier is exciting because it means more hours under her belt and money in her pocket.

LaNiece Taylor, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery hostess in Moreno Valley, said she is concerned about the consistency of California’s plan.

“Being in the red tier as a restaurant worker means we could either stay open or we could close again, depending on the positive cases recorded,” she said before the shift. “The unknown is what worries me.” 

Although cautious, Taylor supports a move into the orange tier.

“There are a lot of people struggling,” she said. “Things getting back to normal will hopefully help.”

Daniel Acosta, another BJ’s employee, said that these are still trying times, regardless of the county moving through tiers.

“It’s still stressful putting myself and my family at risk,” he said.

California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy allowed restaurants an indoor capacity of 100 people, or 25%, in the red tier. Those numbers double in the orange tier. 

Similar rules apply to gyms, which are now open indoors with modifications. They are at 25% capacity in the orange tier. 

Arelise Barrientos, a Moreno Valley College student and assistant manager at LA Fitness in Riverside, also supports a move to the orange tier. 

“Many gym goers won’t cancel their memberships and more people will start to sign up with us again once they know amenities like the pool and sauna are available,” she said. 

Barrientos’ co-worker, Riverside City College student Brandie Serles, said the gym closure was not easy. 

“Unemployment was tough,” she said. “Figuring out my finances and how to make everything work with no job was a challenge.”

Serles said her uneasiness about struggling financially is finally being put to rest now as the county continues forward with less limitations for businesses. 

“It is a stress reliever to know that we are opening our gyms and coming back to work,” she said. “I can’t wait for LA Fitness members to get their money’s worth since they haven’t had full access to all gym amenities.”

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