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As States Roll Back COVID-19 Restrictions, Restaurants Weigh Next Move

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As States Roll Back COVID-19 Restrictions, Restaurants Weigh Next Move

President Biden denounced state leaders who are choosing to relax COVID-19 restrictions and protective measures at businesses including restaurants. Biden called the moves “Neanderthal thinking” and “a big mistake,” reported The Hill (March 3).

His statement follows governors’ recent decisions to drop mask mandates in states including Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, and Montana.

IMPACT ON RESTAURANTS

The Texas Restaurant Association said it felt confident about loosening restrictions due to the level of vaccination in the state. However it noted that restaurants must remain vigilant to avoid a backslide, reported Restaurant Business (March 3).

“Consumers will only go where they feel safe,” the Association noted in the report. “So, restaurants must continue to be very thoughtful and implement the safety protocols that will enable them to maintain and build trust with their consumers and employees.”

The World Health Organization and other health authorities have recommended a jurisdiction’s positivity rate fall below 5% before lifting mitigation restrictions and the CDC still recommends employees and customers wear masks when not eating or drinking.

NOT ALL FOOD OPERATORS ON BOARD

Some businesses will continue mandating masks and limiting capacity in Texas even after the state drops restrictions. Among them are Target, Starbucks, and CVS, reported The Wall Street Journal (March 3).

A spokesperson for CVS said the company will continue to follow federal health guidelines and that employees are directed to avoid confrontations with customers who refuse to wear masks and try to serve them as quickly as possible.

Kroger will continue to require customers and employees to wear masks until its workers can receive the vaccine. Meanwhile, Albertsons will encourage, but not require, face coverings for customers. Its employees will still be required to wear masks.

There’s also concern among some restaurant operators in Texas. Tinku Saini, co-founder of Austin-based Tarka Indian Kitchen, said he immediately began receiving calls from worried employees after the governor announced his decision. His restaurant will continue to space tables six feet apart and won’t move to full capacity.

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STATES TAKING A DIFFERENT APPROACH

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan is easing restrictions on businesses and allowing family members who have tested negative for the coronavirus to visit nursing home residents, reported The New York Times (March 2). Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said that while residents should continue to wear masks in public, it was time for more limits on businesses to be eased.

In New York, which brought back indoor dining with limited capacity in February, a Supreme Court Justice recently granted a preliminary injunction to over 90 bars and restaurants suing New York State. The establishments can now stay open until 4 a.m., lifting the previous 11 p.m. curfew, reported WIVB4 (Feb 27).

Here’s an up-to-date list of states with no mask mandate:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

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