Some restaurants that had reopened in states now seeing a rebound in coronavirus cases are again having to shut down — a scenario public health experts had warned about and that business owners had feared.
In Texas, which started its reopening May 1 after weeks of being locked down, at least a dozen restaurants in and around Houston have recently posted announcements of temporary shutdowns to sanitize their establishments and test employees after cases of the virus emerged.
The city’s Taste of Texas also temporarily closed after an employee tested positive, the steak house said Saturday in a post on social media. “Once 100 percent testing of our Taste of Texas team is complete, we will reopen,” the eatery stated. A similar statement came a day earlier from the Relish Restaurant & Bar, also in Houston, which said it was temporarily closing to test all of its workers after one employee became infected.
After an employee lost their sense of taste and tested positive at Yaga’s Cafe and Beerfoot Brewery in Galveston, the eatery opted to put its operations on hold, Mike Dean, president of Yaga’s Entertainment and Island Holdings, posted Sunday on Yaga’s Facebook page.
“I decided to allow any employee for their personal sanity to go to Hospitality ER on MY dime to get tested. We have received more positive tests none of which were symptomatic and decided to push the pause button,” Dean wrote. “I will meet with the health department Monday and get advice on what next steps should be.”
The pandemic has slammed restaurants across the U.S., with eating and drinking establishments shedding more than 8 million jobs since the coronavirus crippled the economy this spring, according to the National Restaurant Association. A survey of more than 6,500 restaurants across the U.S. in mid April found four in 10 were closed, the trade group said.
Only one in five restaurant owners in cities that were shutdown in mid-April said they were certain that they would be able to sustain their businesses until normal operations resume, according to a survey released by the James Beard Foundation and the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
Nearly 2,000 Texans have died of the coronavirus, while more than 16,000 people in Harris County, home to Houston and the most populous county in in the state, have come back positive for the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
On Tuesday, Texas reported an 8.3% increase in hospitalizations to a record 2,518, the largest daily jump since June 4. The rolling seven-day average rose to a record 2,243, according to the state health department.
A recent spike in cases in Harris County prompted Judge Lina Hidalgo to outline a four-tier public threat system, with the danger currently at level 2, or “significant,” and people advised to minimize contact with others. The county’s stance is seemingly at odds with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who last week increased to 75% the capacity at which dine-in restaurants across the state could operate.
Other restaurants in Texas that have had to reverse course on reopening include Pappy’s Cafe in Houston, which last weekend closed until further notice. Its staff is getting tested after one worker tested positive for the virus, the eatery said Sunday in an update on its Facebook page.
Houston’s La Lucha is reopening on Friday, nine days after shutting down upon learning of an employee’s positive test result, the restaurant announced on its website. El Bolillo Bakery on Sunday said it would resume business on Thursday after “some of” its workers were exposed to COVID-19, the Houston bakery said on Facebook. Only employees who test negative will return to work at the bakery, which is now being disinfected, it said.
Restaurants in other parts of the country where the virus has surged as states eased social-distancing restrictions are also having to again close their doors. The owner of Kiwi’s Pub & Grill in Altamonte Springs, a suburb of Orlando, Florida, said he opted to temporarily shut down after hearing from six customers that they’d tested positive.
“Since the first report of a customer infection, one of our staff has now tested positive with the rapid test. We are waiting for confirmations,” Rick Culmer wrote Saturday on Facebook.
Florida is one of of 22 states where daily coronavirus cases are rising. The state’s hospitalization count has nearly doubled since May 4, when its governor relaxed a month-long stay-at-home order by letting restaurants and stores outside of South Florida open at 25% capacity. The Sunshine State reported 80,109 cases on Tuesday, an increase of 3.6% from Monday.
In downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, three bars on Friday said they were temporarily closing after staffers tested positive. The move drew praise from Mayor Rick Kriseman, who tweeted that all bars and restaurants in St. Pete should follow their lead.
Local news accounts also listed temporary restaurant closures in the Phoenix metro area after workers or customers tested positive for the virus. Restaurants across Arizona were allowed to reopen their dining areas on May 11.
In South Carolina, the state’s health department is offering guidelines to restaurants when workers test positive for the coronavirus. But the agency isn’t requiring that establishments close, as a handful recently did in the Myrtle Beach area due to new virus cases, according to a local news account.
“Having a food worker test positive doesn’t mean everyone in the facility was at risk for coming into contact with the virus,” a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control told the South Carolina Post and Courier newspaper.
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