San Fernando Valley Business Journal: Restaurants take another bite at profitability

UC expert says it's not an 'either/or' debate about saving lives vs. saving the economy

California has lifted its most controversial pandemic restriction, namely the ban on commercial outdoor dining. The decision presents restaurant operators with balancing the costs of reopening versus the revenue potential of operating at limited capacity. In an article in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine, was one of several sources cited.

Fichtenbaum told the Business Journal that eating a meal with someone is “one of the most common ways people transmit.” 

a male doctor in a lab coat gestures with his hands while talking in a laboratory

Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Joe Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

“You have people not wearing masks that are within close proximity of each other. Most of us make a false assumption that the friend or family member I have chosen to dine with does not have COVID-19,” he said, adding the wind isn’t always strong enough to dissipate infected respiratory droplets.

The rate at which the virus spreads in restaurants is difficult to quantify, partly because of the logistical challenges of contact tracing.

Fichtenbaum said the exact role on-site dining has played in the pandemic isn’t the best way to look at the question, and that mitigation measures only work when employed together.

“There was some nice data from the U.K. where they did some staged mitigation measures. Each time they implemented one factor, it made zero difference. It wasn’t until they implemented all the factors together that they started to see a decline in the rate of transmission of this virus,” he said.

Fichtenbaum told the Business Journal he’s empathetic towards struggling small businesses, but lifting restrictions and allowing a free-for-all of consumer behavior won’t help the economy. “People often try to make this dichotomous assessment, either we save lives or we save the economy. It is not an either or. By sacrificing human beings and families, our economy is disrupted. What matters most is leadership on the federal and state level that helps to guide for us and provide in a terrible time,” he said. 

Lead photo/Pixabay/Rudy and Peter Skitterians

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