As we were having dinner at our favorite Albany restaurant Sunday night, Governor Brown’s coming two-week “freeze” was on our minds. What is it about restaurants that warrants the ban on indoor dining?
Starting Wednesday and through Dec. 2, restaurants and bars are allowed to offer only take-out or delivery service. You can imagine the damage this does to these businesses and their employees.
Since the end of the first shutdown last summer, restaurant owners and their employees have gone to great lengths to be able to operate safely as the pandemic continues. They should be allowed to keep going unless the state’s health experts have evidence that the recent increase in cases is related to dining out.
For a while after the first shutdown ended, restaurants were required to keep a register of guests, complete with name, time of visit and phone number. Contact tracers should be able to mine those records to see how many restaurant customers came down with the virus later on.
In July, the federal CDC published a study on where people might have contracted the illness. Researchers at 11 hospitals around the country interviewed, by telephone, 154 people who had been treated for Covid-19 as outpatients and 160 other patients who went in for something else. Sixty-three of the Covidians had been at a restaurant during the two weeks before their illness, and 44 of the others had too.
From this, the researchers concluded: “Eating and drinking at on-site locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with (Covid-19) infection.”
The published study said nothing about what if any precautions had been in effect at the restaurants. Were the tables far apart? Were there screens between tables? Did the staff always wear masks and disinfect the tables and seats before new customers sat down? (They do all that at Taqueria Alonzo, of course.)
With that information missing from that small study, it sounds like a stretch to consider restaurants so much of a “risk factor” that they should be shut down for two weeks. (hh)