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‘Fear and anxiety’ among Orange County businesses as coronavirus concerns lead to stay home orders

After a confusing few days of orders for limiting gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Kent Peters had hoped to reopen his V’s Barbershop in Foothill Ranch on Friday with some new steps for keeping people healthy.

Instead, he was telling his staff and customers in phone calls that his shop will be closed for the foreseeable future after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California residents on Thursday night to stay home unless it was essential for them to venture into public to help prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed with a wave of patients caused by an unchecked spread of illness.

“It doesn’t surprise me it happened,” Peters said of Newsom’s order. “I’m just surprised it happened as quickly as it did.”

Friday capped off a roller coaster of a week for Orange County businesses.



To help stem the spread of the coronavirus, county health officials had ordered earlier in the week that bars close and restaurants to go take out and delivery only, as well as prohibiting gatherings of people. On Wednesday, officials held a press conference to clarify their initial order’s intentions, saying other businesses could operate using social distancing – keeping everyone six feet apart – and proper precautions in stores and offices, or having people work from home.

County officials are now saying the state’s order is the one to follow, but John Juen, who owns a dry cleaner a few feet away from the closed V’s Barbershop, isn’t sure if the state is considering dry cleaning as an “essential” service.

“I wish we are just ordered to close,” he said. “But because laundry is listed, we don’t know whether to open.”

He went ahead and closed Friday. “Businesses have frozen all over.”

Juen had hoped his business could weather the storm. But when people start working from home, they wear T-shirts and sweat pants, not dress shirts and business suits, he said.

Now the neighboring business owners are wondering what kind of economic support might be available to weather the pandemic’s effects.

Peters said he has been trying to figure out how much of a loan he might be able to take from the Small Business Administration. And what about his rent? And what about his staff who depend on tips for much of their incomes? That money won’t be there for a long time.

“I have to figure out what I should be advising – the steps I need to take to protect my employees,” Peters said Friday morning. “I can’t say I totally understand what I’ll be doing at this point.”

Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said she has been hearing a lot of “fear and anxiety” from business owners in her city. “We can understand that. There’s a lot of uncertainty that creates the problem, but we’re trying to navigate it.”

Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said on Friday the city has put out a video for residents and businesses about the state’s order and updates will continue to be posted.

“What we are doing is that we have to tell folks we’re in the same boat. We don’t have answers to every individual situation, and we know how frustrating that is for the business community and even for residents and employees,” he said. “As we continue to learn more, we’ll continue to provide more guidance.”

That is the same tactic the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is taking, spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. Law enforcement has the ability to give citations and take other steps in the case of violations.

“We’re taking an approach of education first and requesting voluntary compliance,” she said. “Up to this point, we’ve been very successful with the community.”

Even before Newsom issued his “stay-at-home” order, downtown Fullerton was nearly a ghost town.

Angela Rodriguez, a part-time worker at Blanquel Popular Art in Fullerton’s popular downtown, said on Thursday she hasn’t seen many customers at her store for several days.

“People don’t realize how businesses won’t survive if they don’t have clients,” she said. “It’s going to be a problem immediately.”

Still, she said, the store’s owner has been in business for more than 20 years. “He’s going to be OK.”

Carol Walker, owner of the Brick Basement, said on Thursday she loves the antique business and acknowledged her shop is hurting.

“I’m lonely,” she said. “I’m used to talking with a lot of people.”

People preparing to stay home more had meant some traffic earlier in the week for Comic Book Hideout in Fullerton, said manager Anthony Martinez. People had been stocking up on comic books and graphic novels for the weeks ahead being indoors, he said.

“They want to read more,” he said. “Everyone becomes a reader.”

Community leaders have been stressing that people can help local businesses and restaurants by buying gift certificates to use later that give businesses the cash they need now, as well as ordering delivery or take-out meals.

The county on Thursday posted on its website,, a list of frequently asked questions to address some common health and business concerns community members might have. People can also call the county’s hotline at 714-628-7085 for more information about what’s open and what’s allowed.

As for Juen, he said he understands the need to restrict movement around the community as the coronavirus spread gains traction. But it’s the uncertainty of how long the virus will be a concern that threatens his business, which like many others, survives month-to-month.

“If we know things will stop in a couple of months, we would do something. We would borrow money,” he said. “But there is no guarantee things will recover.”

After all, he still has thousands of dollars of rent to pay every month. His landlord is the only one who can help him for sure, Juen said.

“We are at the edge of the cliff,” he said. “How long I can survive, my landlord will decide.”

Staff reporter Alicia Robinson contributed to the story.

Source: Orange County Register

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