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Cantu hopes business reopening can start next week in Manteca
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Cantu - photo by Photo Contributed

A decision on which direction Manteca is going to take when it comes to reopening businesses could come as early as next week.

That was the message from Mayor Ben Cantu on Thursday night during a Facebook Live forum where he fielded questions from constituents on everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to the homeless issue in the community.

Cantu, who opened the forum by updating the public on the most recent infection numbers and deaths released by San Joaquin County Public Health Services, said that the council will be discussing the city’s options regarding reopening when they meet digitally on Tuesday, May 5.

“At this time, we are following the state’s directives,” said Cantu, who said that he favors businesses opening responsibly so as to prevent a resurgence of the virus. “The council has asked staff to consult with legal attorneys to determine if the city can do more as long as we don’t violate the state’s directives and we have been advised that we can do more and not less than what the directives spell out.

“We will be discussing that at the council meeting on Tuesday – some type of program or timeline for reopening Manteca.”

When asked about whether hair salons would be able to open up if only a single customer was inside of the shop at the time, Cantu – who joked about the fact that he hasn’t had a haircut in more than two months and has been pressed by his own barber with similar questions – said that specifics types of businesses would be better suited to open but that decision would be dependent on directives laid out by the State of California.

One of the things that he cautioned those who tuned in about is the possibility of creating a second wave of the pandemic by opening things up too quickly and allowing life to return to normal as if the virus didn’t exist – something that could be deadly for the immune-compromised and wreak havoc on businesses that could be shuttered for a much longer spell which could force tough decisions for business owners.

“A second wave has been a concern of mine for some time – I don’t think that we should rush straight into opening things and need to develop some kind of reopening program with those businesses that are more spacious and naturally create the social distancing needed opening first and the higher-density businesses last,” Cantu said, noting that things like movie theaters would probably come later. “I want to avoid as much as possible starting a second wave.

“Once everybody opens up, they aren’t going to be happy if we have to close again – that would be chaos and very bad for the businesses that need to stay open to survive.”

When pressed on the homeless issue in Manteca and specifically one woman who was visibly camping along a city street in the Industrial Park area, Cantu said that the city has been advised to simply monitor the homeless and allow them to – within reason – exist peacefully while the pandemic is playing itself out.

While the county has resorted to using motels in Stockton to house the homeless during the crisis, Cantu said that it would be unlikely that they would tap a Manteca facility to do the same since the Stockton locations are meant to serve the entire county population – one facility for the general homeless population, and another for those who are infected with the virus and need to be quarantined.

At the end of the day, Cantu said, the city is following the instructions set by the state and the courts when it comes to the homeless population and it remains a situation that they are monitoring and aware of.

“Because of the COVID-19 virus, the courts and the state have basically asked us to lay off of the homeless,” Cantu said. “They’ve asked us to let them do what they have to do and camp wherever they’d like until the situation is over.

“Our two officers are still out enforcing the city’s laws, and we’re keeping an eye on things.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.