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The National Restaurant Association notes the "lack of scientific evidence" linking restaurants to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The National Restaurant Association to U.S. governors: We have become a ‘convenient scapegoat’ for COVID-19 outbreaks

The industry association sent a letter to the National Governors Association asking them to reconsider COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns that target restaurants

The National Restaurant Association president and CEO Tom Bené sent a letter on Tuesday to the National Governors Association, defending the safety and role of restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly noting the “lack of scientific evidence” linking restaurants to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the nation. The letter also urges governors to reconsider or rethink COVID-19 restrictions that would adversely affect restaurants, like completely shutting down indoor dining.

“Data tying systemic community outbreaks of COVID-19 to restaurants has yet to emerge, but we are too commonly labelled as ‘super-spreaders,’ and have become a convenient scapegoat for reflexive shutdowns,” the letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, chairman of the National Governors Association, said.

The letter goes on to list all of the safety measures and precautions thousands of restaurants around the country that “operate within the Association’s safety guidelines” have taken, including mandatory face coverings for staff and guests, frequent sanitization and cleaning of high-touch surfaces, and updated floorplans that ensure at least six feet of social distancing between tables.

As the worsening pandemic prompts renewed restrictions around the country, The National Restaurant Association highly recommends that governors base decisions “on facts and contact tracing data” instead of “hypothetical simulations of transmission,” seemingly referring to a recent Stanford University-led study published on that directly linked indoor dining to super-spreader events.

When the study was released last week, The National Restaurant Association criticized its findings, citing the study’s outdated research, representing predictive actions from March to May, and noted that “predictive models are inherently fraught with error.”

In the letter, the association urges that if and when governors do impose restrictions on restaurants, that they halt indoor dining only as a last resort and notify businesses far in advance. They also highly recommend that restaurants be considered essential businesses so that they can remain open for takeout and delivery even during strict lockdowns. Then, when restaurants have to close indoor and/or outdoor dining, the association says state governments should transparently clarify the health metrics needed to reopen affected businesses.

“We continue to support aggressive steps to protect the nation’s public health,” the National Restaurant Association letter read. “But there is an unfounded impression that restaurants are part of the problem, and we are suffering as a result of inconsistent, restrictive mandates. Tens of thousands of additional restaurant bankruptcies—and millions of lost jobs—are now more likely, while the science remains inconclusive on whether any health benefits will accrue.”

At press time, the National Restaurant Association had not returned requests for more detail about their letter to governors.

Bené spoke at Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO last month, giving an update on the state of the restaurant industry and uncertain economic recovery.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

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