States to reverse stages of reopening as peak of COVID-19 cases

As more states allow restaurants and bars to offer outdoor or limited-capacity dining indoors, the country has seen a massive increase in COVID-19 cases. It is not a second wave, the first wave never ended, but the increasing cases coincided almost directly with the reopening of companies. Restaurants and bars have already been identified as particularly risky places when it comes to the spread of COVID-19, for both customers and service workers, and individual restaurants have already closed when a case is detected. But now, state and local governments are beginning to reimplement the restrictions in a bid to once again curb the spread.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that all bars across the state should close at noon today, and that restaurants should return to 50 percent of their indoor dining capacity Monday. This is a throwback from bars that have been allowed to operate at 50 percent of capacity, and restaurants at 75 percent. Bars may still offer cocktails to go. In Idaho, Ada County, which includes Boise, will also return to Stage Three of reopening from Stage Four, meaning bars and nightclubs must close, and while restaurants may continue dinner service, Bars in restaurants cannot function. Since Stage Four began, 69 cases of coronavirus have been linked to people who visited bars in downtown Boise.

Florida, which reports record levels of coronavirus cases, is also shutting alcohol consumption in place in bars, shutting them down effectively, starting right away. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation made the announcement on Twitter, but offered no further guidance on how the bars were supposed to close. Three days ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the DBPR would crack down on bars that violated social alienation and capacity ordinances.

While being willing to implement restrictions in response to an increase in cases is promising, it may well be too late, especially since going from 75 to 50 percent of capacity in Texas doesn’t seem like much. And the process of reopening and reconnecting, rather than continuously shutting down until the pandemic dies, could wreak havoc on restaurants and bars. Reopening a restaurant is a huge cost for owners, especially considering the additional investment in specialized cleaning and personal protective equipment. If restaurants and bars are made to reduce capacity again, or to close entirely, financial stress could permanently shut them down.

Another detriment to the renewed closings is that employees may have to reapply for unemployment, a process that could take weeks, as the additional $ 600 per week through the CARES Act will expire.

For months, scientists, workers, and anyone taking the time to read coronavirus charts have been screaming about reopening a bad and dangerous idea, especially since the first wave of COVID-19 never calmed down. Much of this could have been avoided if everything had been closed longer, and the federal and state governments had implemented measures, canceling rent and mortgage payments, providing regular stipends, to prevent business owners from feeling pressure to reopen. Instead, restaurants and bars are being thrown into a precarious situation where they may be forced to close again, with little warning or support.

But saying “WE TOLD YOU” won’t stop the pandemic, either. We can only hope that these measures, and others that may follow, will help.