Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Journal of the Plague Months: Vol. 3, No 1 ... On the matter of eating in restaurants

In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has said that he‘ll examine the data on May 25 to determine whether restaurants can reopen. Should he give restaurants the go-ahead, I suppose, the governor also will issue guidelines about how restaurants can renew operations while providing as much safety as possible.

Presumably, when they open, restaurants will offer limited seating that accommodates social distancing guidelines. The staff probably will be required to wear masks and gloves. Additional cleaning and disinfecting probably will be practiced. How much testing of employees will be possible is anyone's guess?

But there are other details to consider, sanitizing surfaces after every use and the ways in which ventilation systems circulate air. You can look up additional suggestions yourself or you simply can think about what you would require to return to restaurant eating.

Now, I should say that I've spent a lot of time and money in restaurants, at least before Covid19. I often eat at restaurants that provide quick service because I’m in a rush to get to an evening screening. I also enjoy the kind of dining that qualifies as entertainment. I’m talking about dinner with friends, lingering over the food with drinks and conversation, the usual stuff.

And like many other diners of moderate means, I'm sometimes jolted by sticker shock at the price of a meal, a glass of wine, and perhaps a dessert.

Still, I go to restaurants. I always have and hope that I always will.

But I do not care what decision the governor of Colorado makes about restaurants. I'm won't be dining out until there's either a reliable medical intervention to treat Covid19 or a vaccine that keeps me from getting the virus in the first place.

There simply are too many variables to make dining out feel safe at the moment. Even with testing and tracing — which doesn’t seem to be widespread enough yet — I don't want to be among those who need to be traced in order to be tested should someone eating in the same restaurant as I become infected.

But there's an even more important reason I won't be slipping my credit card under a plexiglass shield, putting on a mask between courses or waiting outside at six feet intervals for the next seating.

It's simply this: Going to a restaurant should be an anxiety-free experience. It should be relaxing. It should be pleasant. It should not be marred by the aroma of disinfectant wafting from a nearby table. I’ve always hated it when someone cleans a table and the smell of disinfectant suddenly overwhelms the table at which I’m sitting.

I will continue to order takeout from restaurants that I want to support, either directly, through a third-party delivery service or through curbside pick-up. But I'm not planning on in-person dining any time soon. Do I hope that my favorite restaurants survive? Of course.

And if restaurants are, as many argue, a vital part of every urban economy, they should be able to qualify for government financial support during the pandemic.

Do I miss restaurants? Very much. But I'd miss breathing even more. And I believe that the best way to make sure that restaurants survive is to fight (and win) the health battle.

Everything else is Russian roulette with the only variable being how many bullets have been inserted in the chamber.

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