No matter how hard local and state governments try to spin it or deny it (particularly Republican governors), the third wave of infection in the United States has arrived just as the weather in most of the Midwest has cooled down after what one of the warmest weeks in recent history, which thankfully happened during the election.
But now that’s done and people will be heading indoors. From what I’ve seen a fair amount believe now that the election is done it’s more or less “safe” to be out and about, but that is mere wishful thinking.
The risk is higher than ever.
Because of this governments are starting to take action and one of the first targets is the food service industry:
Minnesota governor Tim Walz will announce bars and restaurants to close at 10 P.M. on Tuesday November 10.
Wisconsin as of right now has nothing planned. The state Supreme Court keeps striking down all efforts of Democrat governor Tony Evers.
North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, has only issued recommendations to reduce capacity but no order has been issued to help prevent virus spread.
South Dakota tried to one-up their neighbors to the north. Governor Kristi Noem went in on a scheme to promote tourism from people frustrated by lockdowns in other states. Her position remains about the same.
Michigan is likely on the verge of a second lockdown. This past week contagion rates skyrocketed. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been very proactive about communicating her plans.
None of this bodes well for any our industry. OpenTable currently has a state-by-state map of restrictions to help clientele navigate the situation but without comprehensive assistance from local, state and federal governments society at large stands to lose a vast amount of bars, restaurants, coffeeshops… ranging from chains like Starbucks and Pizza Hut, to little hole in the wall joints.
According to data collected by FERN, as of July 28 at 12pm ET, at least 528 meatpacking and food processing plants (372 meatpacking and 156 food processing) and 75 farms and production facilities have had confirmed cases of Covid-19. At least 48,248 workers (37,876 meatpacking workers, 5,240 food processing workers, and 5,132 farmworkers) have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 191 workers (170 meatpacking workers, 14 food processing workers, and 7 farmworkers) have died.
This… is pretty bad. A lot these places are almost exclusively staffed by immigrants, who are one of the hardest hit communities as they usually cannot access healthcare like everyone else. Immigrants already actively distrust the federal government under the Trump administration.
My fear and everyone else’s is that this will get worse.
My serving job at an expensive restaurant in Manhattan ended abruptly in mid-March. The last evening I worked, I had the distinct feeling of being a violinist in the quartet on the Titanic, doggedly serenading despite certain death as my sonatas/wine key attempted to assuage the panicked first-class passengers trying to flee.
The vast majority of people that can afford to dine out these days are also people who an afford an extended stay at a hospital because of COVID-19 and also can manage extended healthcare costs after they leave the hospital.
The rest of us are not so lucky in this regard and a fair number of people I know are also refusing to return to the workforce as they know they will have less money available for rent/bills/food/discretion than if they remain on unemployment.
I hope this will be the push the restaurant industry needs to leave tipping behind. It is a shame it had to come to this.
As of yesterday I have been furloughed by my employer. Granted, I was working minimal hours as a host, but still… it does hurt the bottom line. Our governor announced basically all places of leisure are to close until March 27, including all restaurants, pubs, breweries, food halls/courts, in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation is quite scary for people in food service right now. I can think of at least two restaurants that might not survive being closed down for this long, and that is contingent on the closure not being extended further into the future. In Nevada they’re set to close for 30 days, so that will make for an even harder experience for the industry in that state.
It will be a hard time for everyone. Let us help each other in the industry:
Pickup food from your local food bank, and donate to it when the situation is better.
Apply for unemployment benefits. Check with your employer beforehand as some employers are not being honest or forthcoming about employment status.
Some grocery and big-box stores are hiring temporary help due to the crush of people. Of course, this risks community exposure to possible contagion, which you may or may not want.
If you’re stuck at home, video call your service industry friends. Don’t text or call. A lot of people rely on the job to get their share of social interaction for the day and it helps your mental health to talk with other people in the same situation.