As COVID-19 cases in California rise many counties are reinstating restrictions on businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But some business owners are concerned how that will impact them as the holiday shopping season approaches.
California Restaurant Association President and CEO Jot Condie told CapRadio's Insight that while elected officials have explained the reopenings as a “light dimmer” instead of a light switch, that is not the case for the restaurant industry.
“The employees are the ones who are hurting in addition to the restaurant owners because there’s a lot of uncertainty with our workforce and whether they’re going to have a job next week or not,” Condie said. “I mean, it’s creating a sort of secondary mental health stress-related crisis for our workforce and our [small business] owners.”
University of Pennsylvania School of Policy & Practice Economist and Professor Ioana Marinescu agrees with the impact the pandemic is having on small businesses.
“This [pandemic] was a very, very large shock. So it will take a long time for the economy to recover,” Marinescu said. “In fact, the Congressional Budget Office projects a lowered GDP growth for several years going forward.”
She explained that there’s a delicate balance between reopening and stemming the pandemic. However, she said the virus needs to be under more control before people start shopping or eating at restaurants again.
“As the virus and infection progresses, people are afraid to go out by themselves even without regulations, and that kills business,” Marinescu said.
A recent Stanford study found that most COVID-19 transmissions occur at “superspreader” sites and events like cafes, fitness centers, gyms and restaurants, where patrons are indoors and spend a lot of time around other people.
Jot Condie said that while he has not seen the Stanford study, he said that his association has seen “multiple studies that have different conclusions” and said that indoor versus outdoor air quality could be an issue.
Sacramento County Department of Health Services Director Dr. Peter Beilenson said that through their contact tracing, they’ve found that private gatherings and parties are more likely to cause outbreaks than restaurants and gyms in Sacramento County.
Still, Beilenson urged residents not to give in to COVID fatigue as the holiday season approaches.
“The number one message is just for this last period of time before the vaccine becomes available … Just for this Christmas and this Thanksgiving, just try not to gather except for people from your own family,” Dr. Beilenson said.
In towns like Folsom, several business owners have sent emails to Sacramento County Public Health Officer Olivia Kasirye and Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost to reject a county-wide closure of indoor dining at restaurants and instead to do it by zip code.
Sacramento’s Downtown Sacramento Partnership, Midtown Association and R Street Partnership sent a letter to the California Health & Human Services Agency urging the agency to allow restaurants, museums and fitness businesses to keep operating indoors. The Folsom Chamber of Commerce and other small businesses sent a similar letter.
In an email from September to Kasirye and Frost, Rosario Rodriguez, owner of Sutter Street Taqueria, said that the current system is “not business-friendly towards cities that have performed well during this pandemic.”
Rodriguez also mentioned that Folsom businesses are “struggling to stay afloat.”
Jot Condie with the California Restaurant Association believes whenever the COVID-19 vaccine is released to the public, and people start getting immunized, life will begin to change.
“I think people, their psychology will change, and hopefully, they’ll feel safe enough to go out and eat in restaurants again.”
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