BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor
The head of the state restaurant association has a simple question for Gov. Gavin Newsom — where’s the data?
California was hit with an increase in positive coronavirus tests in mid-June. Newsom’s reaction last week was to shut down indoor restaurant dining in many counties. Indoor dining is still OK in San Mateo County but only outdoor dining is allowed in Santa Clara County. And even that’s in doubt.
The head of the restaurant association, Jot Condie, is wondering why the governor is targeting restaurants. He wants to see the data showing restaurants caused the increase in coronavirus cases.
So far, Newsom hasn’t responded. You’d think Newsom would have an easy time answering that question since he’s said repeatedly that his decisions were guided by “data” and “science.”
There could have been other reasons for the increase. For instance many of the protesters in early June weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. And the rise in cases coincided with the end of the incubation period for COVID-19 for someone exposed at a protest.
A third of restaurants to close
It’s a confusing situation for restaurants. Experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times estimate that one-third of the state’s restaurants will be permanently closing.
First, many are facing a cash crunch. They buy their food once a month on credit, paying their supplier with money made from sales during the month. In March, when the state closed the restaurants, kitchens had all this food — food they couldn’t freeze and keep until the pandemic is over. Many restaurants gave away their inventory to help the needy. But because of the shutdown, no money came in the door. So now, as they try to reopen, their supplier is saying, “Where’s the money for March?” And if they don’t have the money, the supplier will refuse to give them more credit.
Second, when indoor dining returns, many restaurants can’t make enough money under the seating capacity limits set by the state to ensure social distancing. So I think the idea of shutting down streets to help restaurants expand outdoors makes sense.
But the state’s rules for preventing the spread of COVID-19 are confusing and contradictory. I don’t even think the state understands its own rules.
State, county confused
On Friday night, armed agents of California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) visited several restaurants in the South County cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, telling them that they had to shut down or risk a citation, according to the Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle.
Business owners, city officials and the police were confused by the ABC’s action, saying they had received no the state stay-at-home order.
The problem is that the state order doesn’t explicitly ban outdoor dining, so the county took that to mean they could allow it. Now the state is disagreeing with the county’s interpretation.
The other oddity is that the state allowed San Mateo County to give the green light to indoor dining, gyms, barbershops and hair salons, even though it has almost twice the coronavirus cases per 10,000 as Santa Clara County, and more per capita deaths.
These sort of questions raise credibility questions for the state and county governments. That’s not helpful at a time when the stay-at-home orders have cost 3 million Californians their jobs and forced tens of thousands of businesses to close permanently. The best way to handle this is with transparency. Governor, where’s the data?
Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.