How will social distancing impact commerce?

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

How will social distancing impact commerce?With unprecedented school closures and directives to self-quarantine and maintain social distancing to help slow the spread of coronavirus, the community is bracing for the impact of what the reduction of traffic will have on stores, restaurants and other public spaces.

Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars, wineries and pubs to cease operations. Restaurants and other public venues are required to reduce capacity to allow room for limited interaction among patrons.

Newsom’s previous directive to cancel gatherings of 250 or more was reduced to anything hosting 50 or more. In light of that, many local institutions have released information about how this will modify their operations.

“As of March 15, we have taken the recommendations from the governor’s office, as well as California Public Health Department, and reduced all auditorium seating,” Kelly Walden, general manager of Ridgecrest Cinemas, said in a public statement Monday morning.

“Our largest theater will now only allow for 50 tickets sold, with our smaller theaters holding 35 and 30 tickets for each showing.

“We encourage guests to sit in groups with your family, but to maintain six feet distance from other non-family groups as recommended by the CDPH.”

Walden had already published an update last week that outlined heightened food-handling, cleaning and sanitization protocols at the theater.

Although there are still no confirmed cases in Kern County, as the situation continues to evolve Walden will continue to monitor the development in order to balance safety with the availability of local theater access.

At this time, Ridgecrest Branch Library also remains open, but all in-person programming for March has been canceled. Final determination for April programs has not been made.

“We are temporarily suspending usage and availability of community items like the Piece By Piece puzzle table along with all toys in the Children’s Room and the board games,” said librarian Charissa Wagner.

“We have added extra cleaning into our daily routine. This includes more frequent cleaning of high touch items like door handles, water fountain press bars, keyboards, and mice. People are always welcome to request a disinfectant wipes before using the public computers. We also have hand sanitizer available in multiple locations (so far our supply is good),” she said.

“If we do end up closing, all due dates (including expired hold dates) will be shifted accordingly to avoid accruing fines.”

The Maturango Museum and gift shop remain open. However, they have canceled the Children’s Hour (March 20), opening reception for the Wildlife Photo Exhibit (March 20), Jason Stoll’s piano concert (March 27) and the annual Wildflower Exhibit (April 3-5).

The Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert also notified the public that the Historic USO Building and gift shop will be closed until the end of the month, and that all scheduled events have been canceled.

While healthcare officials are pleading for residents to cooperate with community efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tim Smith noted that local members are endeavoring to adhere to those guidelines.

The chamber is working with businesses to reinforce good hygiene protocol, as well as coordinating with employers on how to manage impacts to employees and operations under the current mandates.

“Throughout the coming days, as economic concerns are elevated, your Ridgecrest Chamber and Board of Directors would like to remind you of the importance of supporting your local businesses,” said Smith.

Patronizing local retailers and other establishments will help strengthen the community and mitigate negative impacts to service and operations, he said.

Smith noted that chamber leaders are also doing what they can to circulate the latest guidelines and advisories from government agencies.

“We recognize that the situation is very fluid, and we will remain in contact with local authorities and evaluate the situation daily to ensure the health and safety of our members, staff and the general public.”

Pictured: Ridgecrest Cinemas implementing social distancing policies.

Story First Published: 2020-03-16