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Crazy coronavirus rules show how difficult it will be for restaurants to reopen safely

Published May 4th, 2020 8:38PM EDT
Coronavirus USA
Image: Russell Hons/CSM/Shutterstock

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  • In spite of the fact that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are broadly still on the rise, businesses and local economies in some parts of the country are starting to open back up again.
  • Here’s a look at the exhaustive list of coronavirus-related safety procedures, spanning eight pages, that one newly reopened restaurant chain in the South is making employees follow.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

I live in a part of the country that has, unfortunately, decided to hit the ground running early on reopening the state and local economies — “unfortunately,” in the sense that this move seems not at all driven by the latest data on coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, and more about … well, getting people to spend money again.

That will happen first at restaurants here, with those among the businesses people have been most clamoring to be able to get to patronize again beyond merely ordering takeout. However, this may turn out to be a “be careful what you wish for” kind of thing, based on an eight-page document detailing coronavirus-related safety procedures at one particular restaurant chain that’s started reopening here and elsewhere across the South.

Here are just some of the new rules that staff at the O’Charley’s casual dining chain have to follow (h/t BuzzFeed News):

  • Every guest and employee has to get their temperature checked before they step into the restaurant.
  • Every guest is asked about potential exposure to and any symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Servers have to wash their hands every time they handle money, credit cards, and every time they return to the dining room from the kitchen.
  • Whenever they serve another table, they have to replace their gloves. And whenever they bring out food to a table, they’ll ask the diners to pick up their food from the server trays — and to put it back on the server tray when they’re done.

Suffice it to say, this has added a significant amount of stress for workers there in what’s already a low-wage, high-stress environment. One O’Charley’s employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told the online outlet that “I don’t think we should have opened. There’s no possible way for us employees to do what they’re asking us to do. It’s just not possible.”

As if that wasn’t enough to consider for those of you eager to rush back out to a restaurant, here’s something else: The race to reopen businesses like this around the country comes at the same time that experts are continuing to revise the estimates for coronavirus deaths up, not down.

According to a government document obtained by The New York Times, the existence of which was reported on Monday, the Trump administration is expecting coronavirus cases and deaths to start rising to the point that around 3,000 Americans are projected to die from the virus every day between now and June 1. And in a televised appearance on Sunday night, President Trump said the expectation now is that between 80,000 and 90,000 Americans will die from the virus, up from his administration’s previous estimate of 65,000.

This may serve to throw cold water on many peoples’ desire to sit back down in a restaurant again anytime soon, never mind how much governments push to reopen businesses. For its part, O’Charley’s released the following statement to BuzzFeed: The restaurant said it “has been planning for the return of customers to our dining rooms for several weeks and tracked the evolving guidelines closely.

“As always, the health and safety of our customers and team members remain a top priority for O’Charley’s.”

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.