Billionaire Tilman Fertitta asked US residents Tuesday. USA Let them cover their faces in public, saying that the American economy needs to be kept open during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Wearing a mask is very important right now. Our only chance to stay open is the mask,” said the president and CEO of Houston-based restaurant giant Landry’s on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”
Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday the virus is spreading at an “unacceptable rate” in Texas, which has seen a dramatic increase in new coronavirus-related cases and hospitalizations since Memorial Day.
The order to stay at Abbott’s house expired on May 1, but “if we don’t wear masks, we will have to close again,” Fertitta said. “Then we will really have an economic problem in addition to a lot of sick and very sick people.”
Fertitta, who also owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets, acknowledged that he has been largely on the “conservative side” of the pandemic, particularly since the severe outbreaks initially occurred in places like New York state. Just a few weeks ago, he said, he did not know a single person infected with Covid-19.
“I know 100 people who have it now,” he said, including two of his four children. They have since recovered and never fell seriously ill, said Fertitta, who began her interview on CNBC with a black face mask.
Public health experts believe that wearing a face mask in public can significantly help limit the spread of Covid-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using cloth face covers in “public settings where other measures of social distancing are difficult to maintain.” The governors of some states, such as California, have imposed mask mandates across the state.
Fertitta, whose business empire includes more than 600 Golden Nugget restaurants and casinos, said wearing a mask is ultimately about respect for others. People don’t need to use one while driving their car, she said, but it is essential to do so while in public and close to other people.
He acknowledged that it can be difficult for employees to ask a customer to put on a mask. “I don’t have gorillas. No, I can’t get them to put it on. But I can tell you this, they won’t be allowed back,” he said.
Texas is not the only state that sees a worsening of its coronavirus outbreak. Hospitalizations due to Covid-19 were growing in 14 states, including Texas, as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project.
Part of the increase in cases is due to increased testing capacity, but White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday still called it a “disturbing increase.”
As cases increased, Fertitta said she “definitely” noticed a decrease in consumer activity in her business portfolio, which started late last week and continued through the weekend.
“Now the numbers are a little distorted because you had Father’s Day there, so you did a large number, but this will be a clean week this week with no holidays,” he said. “It’s not just in Texas or Florida. Remember, I’m in 40 states and I’m seeing a little setback everywhere right now.”
At the same time, Fertitta said he doesn’t think restaurants, and the NBA, after its scheduled restart in late July, should suspend operations entirely if someone involved tests positive for Covid-19. She said that those who are sick should be sent home, while the business should monitor the health of those who are close. “You sanitize the establishment and you have to move on.”
“I think if people wear the mask, we can get through this,” he added.