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Latest COVID developments: New restaurant restrictions for Ohio, Iowa, Delaware

Restaurants in one state sue to stay open and Texas numbers lurch closer to a shut-down trigger, while Fauci offers good news on vaccines.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ohio and Iowa are imposing 10 p.m. curfews on indoor restaurant service and Delaware is cutting back interior seating to 30% of capacity in the latest round of limitations imposed on the foodservice industry to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Those developments came as restaurants in Michigan sued their governor to halt the re-closing of dining rooms and lawyers scrambled to have a lawsuit ready if Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine should make good on his threat to suspend dine-in service within his state. DeWine was scheduled to decide this week if a reclosing was necessary, but effectively postponed the call by instead imposing a 10 p.m. curfew on service for 21 days. During that stretch, Ohioans will technically be forbidden to be outside of their homes from 10 at night to 5 in the morning. “We’re going to try it for 21 days, see how it goes.,” the Republican said.

Restaurants in Texas, meanwhile, are intensely watching coronavirus metrics for their state after hospitalization rates—the proportion of new COVID-19 victims who require hospital-level care—climbed above 15%. Gov. Greg Abbott has warned that he’ll roll back restaurants’ dine-in capacities to 50%, from the current 75% level, and reclose bars if the rate remains above 15% for seven consecutive days.

But the day did bring strongly encouraging news from the health community. As many as 20 million people could receive coronavirus vaccine around the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a conference.

The flurry of activity followed announcements that six states, including such major restaurant markets as California and Illinois, will re-close restaurant dining rooms in hopes of flattening an ongoing near-vertical spike in new coronavirus infections.

Delaware and Iowa opted for other measures to slow infections. As of Monday, restaurants in Delaware will be allowed to provide table service in no more than 30% of their dining rooms. Outdoor seating would not be factored into the limits.

Gov. John Carney did not set an expiration date in his announcement of the new capacity restriction. The state currently allows restaurants to use 60% of their dining rooms.

To soften the impact on restaurants, Carney announced that his state will increase its grant program for helping small businesses by $25 million.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she would reassess the curfew she imposed as of midnight Monday night within a week to see if the limitation can be lifted or new restrictions are warranted. She also specified in announcing the measure Monday night that restaurants or hotels cannot hold private events for more than 15 people, a directive certain to affect their group bookings for the upcoming holiday season.

The National Restaurant Association issued a letter today to the National Governors Association, imploring them to use restaurant shutdowns only as a last resort. The communication asserted that there is no science tying restaurants to the ongoing spike in new COVID infections, a contention disputed by many state leaders and health officials.  

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