Madera County businesses hope county will be moved to 'red tier'

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The next meal is ready to be served up at Tijuana's Bar and Cantina in downtown Madera. But one cool spot is the only place you can dine in at this restaurant.

After months of serving take-out only, owner George Buenrostro decided to convert a dirt breezeway into a lighted and paved outdoor dining area- complete with plants, music, and most importantly, patio heaters. It's been an expensive but necessary transformation.

"Now that we have a patio it's great. Now we're back at 100% plus so it's a good thing. It's a big investment but it pays off," Buenrostro says.

He, like many other business owners, is anxiously awaiting word Tuesday on whether or not Madera County has qualified to move into the less restrictive red tier.

Madera County Public Health Officer Dr. Simon Paul was more optimistic at the beginning of last week than he was at the end of it. While positive cases were on the decline, they began rising before the weekend.

"Cases here plummeted. They came down really low and now we've kinda got stuck. Statewide a lot of people are seeing the same thing. A lot of it is related to gatherings- people are tired, they don't want to postpone the wedding again and there's other events they can't postpone- funerals and other things that bring people together that raise the risk of catching COVID," says Paul

Dr. Paul said testing in Madera County has not been an issue lately. But the rising cases makes him worry it could keep them in the same tier. In addition, he said as businesses suffer, some residents are just going to neighboring counties which also poses a health risk. There are also more rural and mountain areas with few cases, but penalized by the countywide positive rates.

"There's areas of Madera County where the cases are lower and if they were connected to a different county they would be in a lower tier based on their case rates, that's very frustrating for businesses. It's very frustrating for nearby counties that have businesses that are open and people start to go across which also increases movement and increases the risk," he says.

No matter what happens, Buenrostro has ordered tarps to enclose more of the patio and additional heaters, just in case the county doesn't see a change.
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