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Cities and states take more steps to lessen COVID-19 risks of restaurants, bars

Miami threatens immediate 10-day shutdowns, while Arizona closes bars.
Miami Restaurants
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants in Miami that fail to ensure guests are wearing masks and not congregating in large groups will be immediately closed by the city for 10 days under new steps announced by the mayor yesterday to slow a spike in coronavirus cases. With subsequent infractions, the timeouts extend to 15 days, and then 30.

Simultaneously, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a former restaurateur, announced that he’s closing the bars in his state in hopes of re-flattening the curve of new cases, and seaside restaurants in parts of California and Florida learned the beaches that would normally draw crowds to the areas will be closed for the July 4th weekend.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that more restrictions on consumers and businesses may be necessary in some counties if new cases of COVID-19 continue to soar. Many took his comments as a thinly veiled threat that stay-at-home directives might be reinstituted if the public continues to disregard such fundamental safety efforts as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.

The actions are the latest indications that many states, counties and cities now believe they were too quick to ease social-distancing requirements and other safeguards against the spread of COVID-19.  Jurisdictions that were more cautious in their reopening plans, such as New York, New Jersey and San Francisco, are also reconsidering the next steps in their economic restarts, citing the danger posed by states that were quicker to allow the resumption of dine-in restaurant service and on-premise drink sales. San Francisco has already delayed the reopening of dining rooms, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will decide by tomorrow if restaurants in the nation’s largest municipality will be allowed to resume on-premise service on Monday as planned.

Delaying a restart of dine-in service would be the worst-case scenario for New York City restaurants, according to the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a trade group that also represents taverns and nightclubs.

“New York City restaurants and bars have been financially devastated and the only thing they can afford less than reopening now is to reopen, rehire and resupply only to be shut down again shortly thereafter,” Executive Director Andrew Rigie said in a statement.  

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have already taken the extraordinary move of requiring visitors from states with a spike in coronavirus infections to self-quarantine for 14 days before they can move freely in the tri-state area. However, the planned ways of enforcing the directives remain unclear.

Restaurants and bars have met the slowdown and reversals in reopenings with open dismay. But civic officials have pointed out that the hospitality industry has been a prime violator of measures that were put in place to keep the pandemic in check. Health authorities in Los Angeles County reported yesterday that they have visited 3,751 restaurants since May 29 to ensure compliance with safety rules. The officials said they provided remedial direction to 83% of the places that were visited.

In Michigan, 107 new cases of COVID-19 were tied to a single establishment in East Lansing called Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub.  Ingham County, where Harper's is located, subsequently rolled back restaurants' dining room capacities to 50% or 75 people, whichever is lower.

In Miami, 10-day shutdowns will be imposed on any public business that fails to heed the city's directives for slowing the spread of COVID-19. But in an interview yesterday on MSNBC, Mayor Francis Suarez cited the sanctions as his way of forcing restaurants and bars to start heeding a new mask requirement. He is expected to issue the executive order today.

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