Stanislaus and Merced counties were among those across California moved back to the state’s most restrictive tier of coronavirus guidelines Monday in response to climbing COVID-19 numbers.

The purple tier designation means that the virus is considered to be widespread.

While the counties are in purple status - the most restrictive of the four color-coded tiers in the state’s reopening guidelines - restaurants will no longer be able to offer indoor dining, churches and gyms can operate outdoors only and retailers must limit their capacity to 25 percent.

Schools which have reopened can continue to operate, in accordance with state guidelines.

Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other personal services can continue to operate indoors, with modifications.

Doug Dunford, Gustine’s city manager, said the return to purple status will hit the business community hard, particularly restaurants who lose the ability to offer inside dining.

“This is putting an extra strain on businesses that have already gone through a tremendous amount of stress in the last eight months,” he commented. “I don’t know how much longer these smaller stores, and even some of the bigger companies, can sustain it.”

Dunford said he is concerned that Governor Newsom is using too broad a brush with coronavirus restrictions.

He said the Gustine community in general and local business owners have complied with what was asked of them.

“(Business owners) have done everything we have asked them to do. They went out and made the modifications, and now they get slammed because of circumstances outside their control,” Dunford commented. “I don’t think it is right.”

The reversion to purple status is “disheartening,” he added.

Newman Mayor Bob Martina agreed that the new restrictions are difficult.

But, he said, “I’m a firm believer in the science. It is going to be hard, but we are going to have to do it.”

The move comes as state officials are reiterating the importance of wearing masks and social distancing to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Officials are also urging people to forego Thanksgiving celebrations and other gatherings which mix different households. Governor Newsom indicated earlier this week that curfews are under consideration.

Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Stanislaus County public health officer, on Monday reiterated the importance of taking steps necessary to curb virus transmission.

“As the weather gets cooler, flu season imminent and the holidays just around the corner, we are not moving in the right direction,” she commented. “Our communities worked extremely hard to lower our numbers and move into the less restrictive red tier four weeks ago. Our numbers began to steadily increase as folks began to return to regular activities, like attending small and large gatherings without wearing a face covering and maintaining a six-foot distance at all times. I know we can decrease the spread. We’ve done it before and can do it again. It is critical that we turn this trend quickly to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system.”