As the United States recorded the largest single-day increase of new cases of COVID-19, bars and restaurants in the states of Florida and Texas face new restrictions with new infections surging in several states across the sun-belt in the south. The new record for positive COVID-19 tests came as some states backtrack and halt efforts to ease restrictions on businesses, threatening what was hoped to be a slow economic recovery.
In the audio below, Sherwin Bryce-Pease elaborates on the story in the US:
Both Florida and Texas, among the first states to start their phased reopenings, are now having to change course. Bars in Florida are ordered to stop serving alcohol while in Texas restaurants have to limit indoor seating capacity to 50%.
Jay Norman runs a bar in Houston Texas. “If I can’t make money. You know what? Call Tina, Marisa, Debra, Daniel, Erica, and tell those bartenders, they can’t work now. All my bartenders and cooks can not work,” he says.
Bar owner Matty Bullitt also feels a sense of frustration.
“We’re shut down. We don’t have a kitchen, we don’t serve food. So we can’t operate. We did everything. Our staff were wearing masks, we had sanitising stations, we did weekly tests, we limited occupancy. We did everything that was asked. It’s a tough conversation to have with everybody that you won’t be able to provide them with a place to work”.
Several other states have seen record infection rates in recent days – California, Arizona, Mississippi and Nevada among them. While the hospital system in Houston, Texas could be weeks from being overrun as Dr David Persse – of the local health authority explains.
“Hospitals right now are managing it and they’ve got surge plans in place but if the community doesn’t start behaving differently, there’s going to be a limit to what the hospitals will handle. It’s not today but three weeks from now. If they hear the message and they start wearing the masks and social distancing – we should be able to get through this. If they ignore the message, if they think it’s fake news and come up with some excuse not to wear the mask and physically distance themselves, we’re going to be in a world of hurt”.
While in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is refusing to mandate the wearing of masks as early signs point to younger people ignoring social distancing measures and fueling the recent spike in cases there.
“At the end of the day, we are seeing really, really big positive test results from our younger, less risky demographic in terms of the effects of this. But a lot of asymptomatic carriers, obviously they could be asymptomatic transmitters, that’s what I think the concern is for our vulnerable population, that it seeps into some of those folks who would be more vulnerable to the virus”.
Florida has recorded more than 8 500 cases in the last 24 hours – the most anywhere in the country.
“As I go around the community I see a lot of people not wearing masks. And although you maybe 25 and feel that you are bulletproof, you have parents and grandparents and I bet you know someone who is overweight or diabetic or has heart disease or lung disease and they are at risk. And the fact of the matter is you are going to put them at risk. So, we are really trying to deliver a message, trying to get to the hearts and minds of people in this community of why it is important to wear a mask. And if you are not wearing a mask, tell us why,” says the CEO of a non-for-profit Lee Health System in the state, Dr Larry Antonucci.
And while the message from President Donald Trump on wearing of masks has muddied the waters and politicised the guidance, the sheer breadth of spread and the weight of more than 125 000 dead, is said to emphatically making the case for their greater use.