Cities and States Mull Rollbacks

With many states beginning to allow businesses to reopen in phases, some communities are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.  Following the beginning stages of their phased reopening, California recently saw its COVID-19 numbers spike. States like Massachusetts have seen slight COVID-19 increases as they begin to reopen.

In places like Texas, COVID-19 cases are still on the rise, having never seen a case reduction, but Texas has already begun its reopening despite this incline. As a result, many critics are saying states such as Texas and Florida reopened too soon. In an effort to control these increases, Texas’ governor Greg Abbott rolled back some of the phased re-openings, as did several other areas, including the State of Massachusetts and the City of Chicago.

For those areas experiencing increased COVID cases, rollbacks are a good idea, as they protect the public health and well being, potentially saving lives, but critics say they also harm the economy.

In a recent Chicago Tribune Article, bar owners reacted to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s orders to rollback bar activities. Per Lightfoot’s orders, bars that do not sell food are no longer able to serve patrons indoors, meaning unless the bar offers patio service, they may only offer alcoholic beverages to-go.  Bars that do serve food also have new restrictions, including only allowing six people per table.  While some bar owners are understanding, others are frustrated at the rollbacks, and many other establishments in Chicago and around the country have had no choice but to shut their doors during the pandemic – or forever.

So, what is the solution? Do we reopen or rollback? After all, while some argue that a healthy population will grow the economy better than a sick one ever could,  critics of rollbacks argue that being open for business is better than restricted business or no business at all. For now, while COVID-19 cases continue to increase, experts suggest businesses including entertainment venues and restaurants brace for rollbacks, by staffing their establishments, and stocking food accordingly. Dr. Leana Wen, the former health commissioner of Baltimore, says we should think of reopening as a dial, not as a light switch, meaning we should be prepared to roll back if necessary.

As for what restaurants can do in the meantime, it’s most important to be sure to comply with all local policies concerning the phased reopenings, as failure to do so could come with fines or shut downs.  Other steps you can take include:

  • Preparing your staff by explaining the laws to them. Update them as the laws change.
  • Provide masks and gloves for those employees who do not have their own.
  • Make sure your tables are spread 6 feet apart or blocked off if required.
  • Increase cleaning and sanitation efforts between patrons.
  • Offer sanitizer stations to guests and employees. 
  • Where applicable, limit the number of patrons in your establishment, and limit the amount of staff working during any given shift. 
  • Consider offering takeout and delivery options for those who do not feel comfortable dining at your establishment, and encourage patrons to take advantage of patio service if available.
  • Consider offering family style meals or takeout specials to entice patrons to dine with you.

As for food, try to scale back your supply orders just in case a rollback occurs. This way you aren’t stuck with an excessive amount of perishable inventory if you have to close or further limit customers.

Ultimately, when to reopen and when to rollback is a tough call for lawmakers to make, but rollbacks may be necessary to help reduce the number of new coronavirus cases. As states that are getting it right such as New York (which has not needed to instate rollbacks thus far) have shown us, if everyone follows orders, there can be success at reducing coronavirus numbers and returning to a new normal for citizens and for businesses.