'When we die, Madera dies': Business owners left frustrated with Madera County stuck in 'purple tier'

To enter the 'red tier', the county needs to have fewer than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents.
MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fatigue and frustration plague Madera County leaders and business owners, who have been working tirelessly to reopen in the North Valley.

An increase in COVID-19 cases is keeping the county in the most restrictive 'purple tier' in the reopening process.

Madera County has seen 5,300 cases, and many businesses have been closed for more than seven months.

Mo Platt owns Mojo's Catering and Restaurant in Madera.

"I do all my shopping by myself," Platt said. "I have to load the car by myself unload the car by myself, put everything away by myself, label, I'm prepping. Sometimes I'm having to run the front by myself. Today which is Tuesday I run the kitchen by myself which is extremely busy.

Platt is taking on more roles in her business than she ever planned to. She's been forced to lay off eight of her employees this year, and the added stress has her near a breaking point.

"It's frustrating, it's very tiring, it's very stressful - sometimes you can't eat, you can't sleep because you're worried - 'Can I pay a bill?'," she says.

Just down the road, Burrito Kings manager Erica Castro feels the same pressure.

"We've really followed every single rule that we've been told to follow...you get to a point where you don't understand the numbers and differences and changes going on...you get frustrated," Castro says.

But testing averages are ticking back up, stopping progress to move into the less restrictive 'red tier'.

Madera County Supervisor Rob Poythress says they are pushing the governor's office with this adjudication to open up.

He says, "To look at it as a one size fits all does not make any sense. And it really is punitive to counties like Madera."

To enter the 'red tier', the county needs to have fewer than seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents, but the small population makes it tough to stay in that range when compared to other parts of the state.

In the meantime, some businesses owners so desperate to get in the next tier, they're offering specials like free mac and cheese to people who show they've taken a test, just to help the numbers. Because as a county, they're all in it together.

Says Platt, "When we die, Madera dies."
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.