Did restaurants reopen too early?

With coronavirus rates spiking in many states and eateries being forced to close again, some city officials say they may reinstate stay-at-home orders.
Photograph: Shutterstock

With coronavirus rates spiking amid their phased reopenings, the leaders of at least three major U.S. cities are questioning whether their areas opened back up too quickly.

In Nashville, the city’s mayor announced Thursday that the planned resumption of full-capacity restaurant and bar operations would be delayed after noting a “slightly elevated average” in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks.

In Phoenix, Mayor Kate Gallego said during a mayoral panel discussion that her city “opened too much too early” and that it is now seeing a significant uptick in coronavirus cases that is stressing hospital capacity.

In Houston, city leaders are considering reinstating stay-at-home orders after Texas’ most populous city saw its highest single-day number of coronavirus cases Wednesday since the pandemic began.

“We may be approaching the precipice of a disaster,” announced Judge Lina Hidalgo, the highest-ranking executive in Harris County, where Houston is located. “It’s out of hand right now.”

As of Friday, Texas restaurants are allowed to increase their capacity from 50% to 75% occupancy. Already, though, a number of restaurantsin Houston have been forced to temporarily close again after their employees contracted the coronavirus.

Houston Vietnamese restaurant Fu Manchung announced earlier this month via social media that would need to re-close for two weeks after an employee tested positive for the virus.

“We never thought or expected this to hit so close to home,” the restaurant posted on Instagram. “It’s a very tough decision for our small family business, but the safety of our employees & patrons are our utmost priority.”

Houston bistro Alice Blue announced Thursday on Facebook that one of its BOH employees tested positive for the coronavirus. The restaurant said it would close “at least through the weekend,” that the restaurant would be thoroughly sanitized and that every employee who has been in contact with the infected worker would be tested.

In Georgia, where restaurants are allowed to reopen at full capacity beginning Tuesday, the state saw its largest single-day spike in coronavirus cases on Thursday since the state reopened in early May.

Around the country, 19 states are currently seeing increasing rates of COVID-19 cases, with some noting record or near-record high numbers. Nearly 114,000 U.S. residents have died since the pandemic began.

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