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Restaurants perfectly illustrate why the US response to coronavirus has been so bad

Published Jun 25th, 2020 11:18PM EDT
Coronavirus reopening
Image: John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock

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  • Now that we’re fully in the coronavirus reopening phase of the pandemic, one thing we’re starting to see more of is restaurants having to close again following a spike in cases around them.
  • It’s partly the nature of the business, bringing crowds of people together to eat a meal and to sit for an extended period of time.
  • However, we’re likely to see this trend continue, especially with the US setting a one-day record for the most coronavirus cases in a single day this week.

The CEO of Olive Garden’s parent company said this week that, so far, consumers aren’t staying away from the chain’s dining rooms even as coronavirus cases are spiking again around the US.

“We’ve seen no change in our business trends, and in the states that are starting to spike obviously, we’re concerned, we’re focused on it,” Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee told analysts Thursday on the company’s latest quarterly earnings call. Did you catch that? No change in a business that by and large is built around lots of people sitting down together for an extended period of time to eat (and talk loud, cough, and do all sorts of other things that spread germs). And those people are still packing restaurants, notwithstanding the rise of coronavirus cases getting so bad that at least three states might have to return to lockdowns of some kind.

If you actually take a look around the country, though, many restaurants are unsurprisingly having to close their dining rooms again because of spikes in area cases that are often affecting their own employees.

In California’s San Gabriel Valley, for example, the bakery chain Nothing Bundt Cakes closed two locations in recent days after employees tested positive for the coronavirus. In Las Vegas,  employees at several restaurants have contracted COVID-19, which has required the businesses to close their doors while they sanitize and test employees. In Houston, Texas (one of a few states where cases have been climbing again at a scary rate), the restaurant Prego is re-closing for in-person dining and going back to a to-go model. “I just felt like the right thing to do to keep our staff safe and community safe was to go back to model where interaction between staff and guests was less impactful,” managing partner David Cook told a local news outlet.

Unfortunately, we’re likely to see this continue. In terms of the latest coronavirus picture in the US, Wednesday of this week set a record for the highest single day of new coronavirus cases, according to NBC News. The latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University show that a little more than 2.4 million coronavirus infections have been reported in the US to date, and there have been almost 123,000 reported deaths.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.