Covid shutdown: California eateries warn of hunger & despair

CDPH California Department of Public Health


The new Covid-19 induced shutdown threatens the survival of eateries and their employees in California, restaurant owners as well as an industry association representative told indica News.

Governor Gavin Newsom said through a press note that 28 counties will be moving back into tier 1(purple/widespread) mode from Tuesday, November 17, which means no indoor operations for places such as museums, houses of worship, gyms and restaurants.

We are sounding the alarm,” said Newsom. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of Covid-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our healthcare system and lead to catastrophic outcomes..”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also last week announced that the city will roll back the reopening of indoor dining, reduce capacity of fitness centers and movie theaters, and will pause approval of plans for indoor instruction for high schools.

From November 17, Santa Clara County is among those counties moving directly into the most restrictive purple tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Under the state’s blueprint, the purple tier indicates that the risk of community transmission in the county is widespread. Unlike San Francisco, the county has restricted all indoor activities associated with gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums, places of worship, and movie theaters.

Shopping malls and all retail establishments must reduce to a maximum of 25 percent capacity.

In a statement emailed to indica News, Amy Cleary of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association said they understand the concerns about the pandemic but prohibiting inside dining will lead to more financial stress on employees and their families will face increased mental health issues as well as stress related illnesses.

We are very disappointed San Francisco has announced closing indoor dining effective Saturday, morning, November 14,” Cleary said.

The association represents around 800 restaurants in the Bay Area and beyond. Asked about closure numbers, Cleary said said they don’t have firm closure numbers because it is unclear if many spots have closed permanently or temporarily.

We do anticipate immediate negative effects; including more restaurant closures, both short-term and permanent, significant job losses, and numerous employees losing health insurance coverage,” Cleary said.

With winter on the way, limited indoor dining represented the only real hope for many restaurants to survive the next three months the association pointed out.

As we have said before, the majority of restaurants simply cannot make it financially on takeout alone. With the uncertainty around further federal support, San Francisco restaurants, their employees, and their families will suffer greatly,” Cleary said.

According to the San Francisco mayor’s press note, Covid-19 prevalence in the city, the number of new cases per day per 100,000 people, has more than doubled over the last three weeks from a low of 3.7 cases per 100,000 people to nine.

We understand the rate of cases increasing is steeper than our last wave in the summer, and that this caused real concerns… as to the possibility that our healthcare system could easily become overwhelmed,” Cleary said.

While there seems to be no reported causal link between dining inside in San Francisco restaurants and the increased San Francisco case numbers, we continue to remind our members to follow all Covid-19 safe practices and guidelines.”

She added: “Given that our industry is being asked to sacrifice financially, we call on our city leaders to help our industry survive by offering immediate financial aid to our restaurants and our employees. We also call on Congress to pass the Restaurants Act now to provide critically needed dollars to keep restaurant workers employed.”

Ranjan Dey, owner of New Delhi restaurant in San Francisco, also told indica News that he understands why the shutdown has been put in place but pointed out that at stake was survival for many.

When you are shut down for seven months you have to start building your business from ground up again. This shutdown takes the steam out of what little we have left as we started to get back up again,” Dey said.

Hitesh Gautam, chief chef at the Amber chain of restaurants in San Jose, Milpitas and Los Altos, told indica News that the shutdown arrived just when things were starting to look up.

It was picking up for sure, and again this sudden rule,” Gautam said.

Employees are struggling and want the work. When we learned we could open we started calling people. Now again they have rolled back. I don’t know what to do,” he added.

People who visit Amber ask questions about safety. We regularly sanitize and maintain social distancing. The seating capacity at Amber is 198, we have reduced it to 50 people,” he pointed out.

We are doing everything in the best possible way because we want to survive.”

Dr Jasbir S Kang, medical director, Yuba Sutter Hospitalist Group, California, told indica News that closing businesses may not stop Covid-19 but it does slow down the spread.

“There are limited hospital beds,” he pointed out. “Right now we do not have preventive medication other than the vaccine which will be ready in a month or two, so other than mask and social distancing there is no other option.”

“Depending on how fast the disease is spreading, the recommendations are made by public health officials who are specialized in epidemiology. So you have to balance between economic concerns and the safety of people,” he said.

Dr Kang pointed out that the state opened up things when the numbers came down, but November to February is a peak flu season.

As of November 16, California had 1,029,235 confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in 18,263 deaths.