A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Covid ‘freeze’ too hard on restaurants

Written November 16th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Taqueria Alonzo in downtown Albany installed screens to separate diners during the Covid crisis.

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)

31 responses to “Covid ‘freeze’ too hard on restaurants”

  1. Phil Ayer says:

    Being indoors together, with dry winter air is what is risky. Breathed particulates hang in the air longer and Alonzo doesn’t have outdoor seating. It is unfortunate. MAYBE A JOURNALIST SHOULD INTERVIEW SOMEONE WHO KNOWS MORE ABOUT EPEDIMIOLOGY THAN HASSO!

    • Hasso Hering says:

      That would be “epidemiology,” right? How would outdoor seating in November in Oregon be a solution?

    • KJ Ullfers says:

      So Phil, following your logic why are we then allowed into the petri dish that is your local grocery store such as Wal-Mart? Have you seen the sanitary standards in those places versus a local eatery? Using common sense in hygiene…yes. But basically closing down those business’ without giving a safety net is beyond irresponsible. Get us the info on where the outbreaks are occurring. Not giving the info causes folks to distrust our elected officials even more.

      • Walter says:

        The issue is viral load over time. You spend less time making a quick grocery trip than sitting to eat a meal. Additionally, you can keep a mask on while you do so – reducing the particulates in the air.

        • HowlingCicada says:

          Good points. Grocery tends to be either quick in a small store, or longer in a large store with large air volume and some circulation. Better yet, you tend to move around and spend little time near any one person, though that will depend on crowding near the checkout. If the local active-infection percentage is low, then your chance of escaping unharmed is probably fairly good.

          Also, surface cleaning is overblown.
          “””We have misallocated our attention and should be focused on unventilated indoor spaces, not on soap obsessions.”””

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Evidently Phil knows more than the CDC.

      According to the CDC the epidemiology of Covid indicates that most infections are spread through close contact within a short range (i.e. < 6 feet), not particulates that "hang in the air longer" (i.e. airborne transmission).

      Physical distancing is the solution. And every restaurant now makes sure their customers are seated at least 6 feet away from each other.

      Banning indoor dining is not about mitigating the spread of a virus. It's about a tyrannical state government exercising power over its subjects. The mindset is – don't question, just do as you are told. It's 1984 in 2020.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “And every restaurant now makes sure their customers are seated at least 6 feet away from each other.”

        Really? That is not happening in ANY restaurant I’ve been into…and hasn’t been…

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          Every restaurant I’ve frequented in many states have seating capacity reduced where customers sit at tables spaced at least 6 feet apart.

          You need to get out more.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            The tables are spaced. The customers are not. 6′ spacing is rarely being rigidly adhered to & that is the problem. I stand by what I said…

          • Cheryl P says:

            I have to agree with Ray. While the TABLES are 6′ apart, the customers seated at those tables are not. I admit to not having dined-in a lot since the restrictions have lifted, but about half of the restaurants I have been to…no way was there 6′ between patrons. And just to be clear, I’m speaking patrons from different groups, not in the same group.

            And given how hard hit restaurants have been…I get it trying to claim every single inch of real estate they can. 50% capacity with reduced staff…barely breaking even.

            Here’s an idea…let’s remove all restrictions. If you want to wear a mask and gloves…good for you. If you don’t want to wear a mask and gloves…good for you too. And if you choose not to wear a mask and you get sick…you are on your own.

      • Pat Riot says:

        Of course our state government’s master plan is to not only shutter restaurants permanently but also to collect as little tax revenue from them and the other associated businesses to the point that the state becomes bancrupt.. Makes perfect logical sense. Thanks wise one!

  2. Mike says:

    Phil is right. It sucks, but covid numbers are going through the roof right now, and with flu season coming, our hospitals will not be able to keep up. We have to limit gatherings, especially indoors, for a little while to keep it from getting out of control. Order some takeout, workout at home, and wear your mask. We’ll get through this, and once a vaccine is widely distributed, we can get back to normal

    • HowlingCicada says:

      I agree except for one little detail. It’s going to take a high degree of public acceptance — not just wide distribution — of vaccines, to get back to normal.

      Problem is, many of the same people who don’t like or trust “government” and/or “big business” also mistrust vaccines. Conspiracy freaks on the right and nature freaks on the left, each finding their own tribe on Facebook and tuning out reality. The connection with current politics is really unfortunate (resisting the urge to rant further).

      I predict there will be interesting correlations between return to normalcy and political geography.

  3. Sue says:

    Hasso is simply asking for more reliable information/evidence/research. And perhaps a more accurate representation of the danger sites. Fitness facilities and restaurants are to close… but shopping to support the economy is encouraged? While massage, youth and collegiate sports and salons remain open. Places Where one to one contact is actually unavoidable. If evaluating the risks isn’t being done by tracing… shouldn’t it at least be done physical contact? 11 hospitals around the country do not in way accurately depict what’s happening everywhere. I work with three nurses who adamantly disagree with the impending threat stats in their facility. And before you come at me – I’m not saying it’s wrong or right… I’m agreeing with Hasso that the quantifiers seem unfounded and unreliable.

    • Lundy says:

      So many of the actions taken during the pandemic have felt random and arbitrary, not to mention that they seem to reflect the thinking that the government can keep printing money out of nothing indefinitely. At least this time around, Kate Brown isn’t closing Oregon parks and forests.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        If you think “random and arbitrary” exists at the state level, hold on to your seat at the federal level.

        Just look at Biden’s so-called “experts” on Covid policy.

        Read the differing stances on lockdown measures from Biden’s panel including Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. Michael Osterholm, Dr. Atwal Gawanda, and especially, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel (“Why I Hope to Die at 75”).

        Lots of kooky advice is being fed to a cognitively challenged Biden.

        “Random and arbitrary” is a polite way to express the weirdness that is about to happen in January 2021.

  4. William Ayers says:

    It sure is a comfort to know that the gov is looking out for us. I fear they will cure the disease and kill the patient.

  5. R.E. Publicin says:

    Omg! Maybe Mr HH is showing compassion for the emotional side of this pandemic all while still wearing his mask, washing his hands and social distancing…. all while you K.I.A.’s keep the aggression and conflicts of 2020 going strong…

  6. Warren Beeson says:

    Here in Tennessee, Nashville did a study of the first-round covid sources and found that a total of 2 cases were contracted in bars and restaurants. Construction sites were the source of 16 or 17. Bars and restaurants were allowed to operate under severe restrictions while construction had no limitations. That’s in a city of about 1.5 million. What’s wrong with this picture?

  7. Steve E Kosse says:

    I just looked at the testing numbers for LInn county. Currently sitting at 96% negative rate. Of the 4% postitives, many are “presumptive”…some symptoms but no covid. Padding numbers?????

  8. hj.anony1 says:

    I just don’t know how you old white guys are going to be able to come out “ok” on other side of this. So angry!

    Maskless and proud of it.

    Driving around with your pictures of the gov with Hitler stache and swastica on your trucks.

    So angry. Now you can’t dine out again. So angry.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Critical or mocking in a sarcastic way from a bad-tempered or irritable person.

      hj – Snark is a childish response to an adult discussion. You, too, can be heard if you try harder.

      • hj.anony1 says:

        Nope. Wrong again “Shadle”. Just honest observations from around Albany on 11.16.2020

        So angry…..

  9. Rhea Graham says:

    How many of those people had been to their doctor’s office 2 weeks prior???????????


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