I miss two weeks ago. Back then, I was hitting taco joints on the East Side for a column about new places to eat cow and pig parts. Toilet paper flowed like so much chocolate from a fountain at Cracker Barrel. I could watch any number of sports on TV, dine at the restaurant of my choice with abandon, and send my kiddos to daycare with only the usual fear that they’d catch any one of the same ol’ viruses. Today is different. Today is scary.
My social media feeds are flooded with restaurant folk trying to reconfigure their lives in this new society of social distance. Cities around the country and world are completely shutting down. This week, the same White House that a month ago decried this pandemic as a liberal hoax and two weeks ago assured us the virus was little more than a weak strain of the flu declared no one should congregate in groups of 10 or more.
In Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price announced that restaurants and bars must operate at half capacity. A day later, she said that Fort Worth will be joining other reasonable Texas cities like Dallas and Austin in shutting down their service sectors altogether.
It’s tough to be critical of anyone trying to lead in times such as these, but it seems to me the long view is wiser than the urgency of the moment. Price eventually did the right thing in temporarily closing restaurant dining rooms and bars. Even at diminished capacity, anyone in a public place like a dining room can transmit COVID-19 without knowing it. I’m far from an infectious disease expert, but here are a few tidbits about the virus from the World Health Organization: A carrier can pass it along for up to two weeks without symptoms; the virus can survive on some surfaces for up to three days; COVID-19 was spreading exponentially in some parts of the world; and our bodies have no built-up immunity to this new sickness.
I understand that service industry workers still have to pay bills. Most of the ones I know live week to week. For the past month, they had to choose between making money and risking infection or sitting out the pandemic and taking a chance that their water could be turned off, they could be evicted, or that they would be unable to take their kids to the doctor because they can’t afford it. Most independently owned restaurants probably don’t have the capital to overcome a sustained shutdown.
This probably won’t be a popular opinion, but there’s plenty more the city and county should do to help people in the service industry (and all others). Closing dining rooms is a good start to sending us down the fastest path to normalcy, but it’s not enough.
The county and city should suspend evictions and utility disconnections. Furthermore, food distributors, which are overflowing with product from cancelled events and closed restaurants, should work with our outstanding food bank to set up meal deliveries and pick-ups for anyone in need.
Also, stop fucking hoarding supplies, idiots.
Many restaurants are offering curbside pick-up or delivery. That’s safer than keeping the dining room open, but you and your food will still come into contact with the cooks, the person packaging your order, and the delivery driver. Luckily, the people I’ve worked with in the service industry are some of the most conscientious and clean people I know. That’s a risk I’d happily take.
Keep supporting local as much as you can. The world is a different place than it was two weeks ago. Until our leaders step up and do the right thing, our city is going to keep changing for the worse.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.