White House officials are considering the imposition of a nationwide curfew as a way of discouraging consumers from congregating in bars, restaurants and other public places at night, CNN reported Monday morning.
The news channel said it has confirmed the report with multiple officials. A Restaurant Business source separately reported that the Corona Task Force headed by Vice President Mike Pence has already held a conference call to discuss the possibility.
The development comes as the industry is awaiting announcement of what Pence described Sunday as “broad-based recommendations” to protect Americans by discouraging potentially dangerous behaviors such as congregating in public places.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said the measures would include “dramatic” limitations on social activity. He specifically said during a press conference yesterday that forced closings of restaurants and bars could be included.
The nationwide shutdown or ban of dine-in service would force social distancing, a strategy that experts say was highly effective in helping China and South Korea slow the spread of COVID-19. France and Spain have both attempted to do likewise by requiring all eating and drinking places to shut down.
Ten states—Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts and Washington—have already ordered restaurants to suspend dine-in service and provide only takeout and delivery. Puerto Rico opted for a daily closing time of 6 p.m. for places that sell liquor. The island territory also imposed a nightly curfew of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Those efforts were triggered in large part by the refusal of St. Patrick’s Day revelers to forgo their early partying this weekend. From coast to coast, public officials voiced alarm about the high turnout.
Many other jurisdictions have attempted to boost social distancing by imposing capacity limits on restaurants and bars, an approach the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked all businesses nationwide to adopt. The mandated caps usually limit the number of customers who can be accommodated at any given time to 250 or 100. The CDC has recommended a self-cap of 50 people.
Washington, D.C., imposed new seating guidelines, including a limit of six patrons per table. Bar service was discontinued, and tables are required to be at least 6 feet apart.