social distance restaurant

Photo Source: William DeShazer / The New York Times

In Pandemic Pandemonium, Restaurants Become Both Guinea Pigs And Scapegoats

When states began to lift lockdowns a few months ago, restaurants became the nation’s reopening guinea pigs. Each state navigated its own reopening rules, instituting only partial reopenings after months of financial losses suffered by restaurants struggling to get by with only takeout and delivery. As COVID-19 cases began to rise again, restaurants and bars were labeled as hotspots for community outbreaks, and they closed again. According to Louisiana state data, about one-fourth of the state’s 2,360 cases since March that originated outside of nursing homes and prisons have been linked to bars and restaurants. In Maryland, 12% of newly reported cases last month were traced back to restaurants. Though it’s unclear how many cases are being contracted from employees, workers have seen spikes as well. Since late June, restaurants in Nashville, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, and Atlanta have been forced to close temporarily due to COVID-19’s presence among employees. Bars in Texas and Florida have closed due to employee infections as well. Epidemiologists say that the bulk of new COVID-19 cases come from indoor settings, and that the risk of contracting the virus is far less likely outdoors. “As of recently, we still hadn’t traced a major U.S. outbreak of any sort to an outdoor exposure,” said Lindsey Leininger, a health policy researcher and clinical professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Along with delivery and takeout, outdoor dining has kept several restaurants from closing permanently. Though some states are now allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining at 25% indoor, the sustained lack of sales and whiplash effect of opening and closing with little financial relief has mostly devastated the nation’s 1 million restaurants. Get the full story here at The New York Times (subscription required).

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