Chino Hills, CA

Chino, Chino Hills businesses dish on pandemic, reopening experiences

Renee Elefante
No matter what you bring and what you present as a basketball program, if people don't feel safe and comfortable, then it's going to be hard to get people outside of the gym." – Coach T., manager of 3 Point Play Zone

Like many smaller businesses in the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected those operating within the San Bernardino County area.

California businesses were required to shut down in March 2020 when the first stay-at-home order was issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom. After frequent and brief periods of reopening and closing the state and some businesses, California officially reopened on June 15 and eliminated social distancing and masking requirements for vaccinated residents.

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3 Point Play Zone teaches basketball to students under 18, and it also has an indoor playground and an arts and crafts area.Renee Elefante

The manager for the recreation facility 3 Point Play Zone, who asked to be referred to as Coach T., called the pandemic experience a “rollercoaster” due to the constant reopening and closing of the business as well as the shifting guidelines. Coach T. said that one of the most challenging things for the facility, which is located in the Gordon Ranch Marketplace off of Chino Hills Parkway, has been making customers feel safe.

“No matter what you bring and what you present as a basketball program, if people don’t feel safe and comfortable, then it’s going to be hard to get people outside of the gym,” he said.

To make the customers feel safe, several hand sanitizer stations were placed within the facility, temperature checks were done and classes were reduced from 20 students per class to six students per class. All of the cones and basketballs used were cleaned before and after use, and each student had their own set to use.

Coach T. also noted that the facility had to implement a mask break for two to three minutes in order to allow students to take off their masks and catch their breath.

“No kid wants to wear a mask,” Coach T. said. “They’ll take it down as much as they need to. Sometimes they need to get their breath back.”

Aside from offering basketball classes and camps for students between the ages of four and 17, the facility has an indoor playground and area for arts and crafts. These areas are meant for guests who are 6 years old and under.

The playground, which is not fully reopened, gets cleaned before and after each shift from Monday to Sunday. In addition, a deep cleaning is done three times a week. The arts and crafts area is also not fully reopened.

Coach T. said that when it came to enforcing the masking and social distancing guidelines, the facility’s staff never felt overwhelmed, even when there were parents who were “fighting back” and not wearing their masks.

Since the reopening, things have been “much better” for the business, says Coach T. He feels that when the schools reopen in August, students will feel more comfortable doing sports activities.

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AEA Academy offers features like classes for English and math, a private tutoring service and college counseling.Renee Elefante

Another business in the Gordon Ranch Marketplace that has been affected by the pandemic is AEA Academy, a school that offers English and math classes as well as tutoring and preparation for standardized testing. Mark Jin, who has worked as the manager for 11 years, called the pandemic a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience and said that he lost more than half of his students.

He noted that the academy’s transition to a distance learning environment enabled them to enroll students living in Corona, Temecula, Pasadena and other cities.

Jin said that distance learning was challenging for students, parents and teachers, but it was especially difficult for students enrolled in the first and second grades.

“It is really hard for them to stay focused in front of computers for a long time,” Jin said in an email. “As a result, I do not think that many students get what they are supposed to learn in the past school year.”

He also noted that it was “extremely hard” to have the younger students abide by the social distancing guidelines.

When the academy began offering in-person instruction in May, the desks were rearranged to separate the students and limit how many could be in a classroom at a time. A maximum of eight students can be in a classroom, but typically only four are in a room at a time.

Sneeze guards and other personal protective equipment were purchased to protect the students and employees, and the academy also continued offering virtual instruction for students who did not feel comfortable returning to an in-person environment.

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Auraganic Juicery sells a variety of healthy drinks and snacks to its customers.Renee Elefante

Near the Chino Creek in the city of Chino, Auraganic Juicery specializes in healthy beverages and snacks like smoothie bowls, cold-pressed juices and pizza. The cafe was founded six years ago by Nick Hughes, who said that it was challenging to have the business adjust to the masking and social distancing guidelines after the pandemic hit.

“Our company is based around health, and we believe in healing from the inside and preventing disease and viruses from getting into us by having an alkaline body,” Hughes said. “And so, (the masking and social distancing guidelines) were kind of hard to wrap our heads around (and) to conform, but we did and we conformed to society’s way of dealing with this situation.”

Hughes also noted that some of the customers and employees had trouble abiding by the guidelines, but after the cafe received 10 bad reviews in two weeks, they “cracked down” on the regulations.

Prior to the pandemic, the business typically served around 50 customers per day. After the pandemic hit, the number of customers would vary day-to-day, but Hughes recalled serving around 20 customers per day. Since the statewide reopening on June 15, between 50 and 70 customers have been served daily.

According to Hughes, two employees tested positive for COVID-19 and could not work in the cafe for two weeks until they were retested with a negative result. One of the employees who tested positive has a sister who also works in the cafe, so she, too, was not allowed to work until she was retested.

As of July 27, both the CDC and the state of California are currently recommending vaccinated residents to wear masks if they are in an area with high COVID-19 transmission rates. In terms of resources that aim to help small businesses recover, the California Rebuilding Fund is currently accepting applications for owners to receive loans through its website. The California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, however, is currently closed and no applications are being accepted.

Our company is based around health, and we believe in healing from the inside and preventing disease and viruses from getting into us by having an alkaline body. And so, (the masking and social distancing guidelines) were kind of hard to wrap our heads around (and) to conform, but we did and we conformed to society's way of dealing with this situation." – Nick Hughes, owner of Auraganic Juicery

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I am a sophomore majoring in English/Journalism at Chapman University, where I currently work at its student-run newspaper as the Assistant News Editor. I have been interested in reporting ever since my freshman year of high school when the student newspaper followed a statewide district enrollment program that was set to end by the next school year. Since then, I gained an appreciation for local journalism, and I hope to bring coverage to any issues that are affecting local communities. My work has also been seen in the teen-led news outlet, The Cramm, and the Now Simplified Instagram account, which focuses on explaining political issues/events to its followers.

Chino Hills, CA
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