(Austin, TX) For months, some local elected officials have labeled restaurants and other foodservice businesses as risky and even dangerous locations for COVID-19 exposure, without any data from local health authorities to support that claim. Texas restaurants were highly regulated before the pandemic, and they have gone above and beyond to prevent the spread of COVID-19. From face mask requirements and enhanced sanitation, to social distancing and health screenings, restaurants are implementing a long list of costly but necessary precautions to keep their customers and employees safe.
Reports recently surfaced from Nashville that local officials hid data indicating that just 22 COVID-19 cases came from bars or restaurants. Even knowing this information, they kept bars and restaurants locked down, causing significant loss to businesses and jobs, and then raised taxes to try and balance their budget off the backs of Nashville citizens.
Based on these shocking revelations, and our responsibility to defend the 50,000 restaurants that call Texas home, yesterday the Texas Restaurant Association sent seven Public Information Act requests to local elected officials and health departments in our four largest metro areas. The requests seek information about where people have contracted COVID-19, how many people contracted COVID-19 at a restaurant, contact tracing questions, and internal or external correspondence related to these items. In short, we want to know what, if any, evidence exists connecting restaurants and other types of locations to the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to working with our local officials to obtain this information and better educate the public.
Governor Abbott reaffirmed yesterday that data must direct our decision making and public policy. We wholeheartedly agree because lives and livelihoods are on the line. Unsupported claims that disparage restaurants, or any businesses, draw out our recovery to the point that many local businesses will not be able to survive. We’ve already lost an estimated 15% of the 50,000 restaurants that feed and employ Texans; we estimate that number will climb above 30% if restaurants do not receive immediate support.
We must pull together, with reliable data leading the way, to protect Texans and save the local businesses we love. It’s time for our local leaders to share any data they have so facts—not fear—may rule the day in Texas once again.