There’s been a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the Inland Empire, according to health officials who are worried about another big surge with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner.

On top of that, many restaurants in the Inland Empire are in financial despair due to the pandemic.

John Lenertz, the owner of Mill Creek BBQ, says he’s struggling to make ends meet.

“If I didn’t have a drive thru, we wouldn’t be here talking,” Lenertz said.

The lack of indoor dining is leaving businesses in financial despair.

“It’s just not been fun to tell people they can’t eat inside,” Lenertz said.

It may be a long time before customers can eat inside. Right now both San Bernardino and Riverside counties are in the purple tier of the governors safer reopening plan.

Purple is the most restrictive. An upgrade to red tier would give restaurants at least 25% indoor capacity.

“The case rate has gone up pretty substantially post Halloween. We’ve been gradually climbing after Halloween. We took a big jump,” San Bernardino County public health director Corwin Porter said.

Porter says since Halloween, COVID-19 case rate has skyrocketed to nearly 20 cases per 100,00 people. That’s nowhere near the seven case limit to reach red tier status.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 50th case.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

“If we have another jump like that for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are in serious trouble,” Porter said.

Porter says there is some good news. Hospitals still have plenty of ICU beds available.

It’s a similar situation in Riverside County where the case rate has climbed to about 14 per 100,00 people.

With big holidays coming up, health officials are asking people to make a tough sacrifice by avoiding family gatherings with members outside your household.

“We know that’s a lot to ask in public health. But it really is one of the ways we are going to beat this in the long run,” Riverside County Public Health Jose Arballo said.

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By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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