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U.S. restaurants toil to stay open, including in city hosting GOP convention

What's behind the rise in COVID-19 cases?
What's behind the rise in COVID-19 cases? 08:32

President Donald Trump decided earlier this month to move the Republican Party's national convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, because of the latter's less stringent social distancing policies for large gatherings. But the Sunshine State's laxer approach is already causing problems for local restaurants — a pattern visible in many parts of the country as the resurgent coronavirus forces eateries and other businesses that had reopened to close their doors anew.

Lynch's Irish Pub in Jacksonville was forced to close on June 13 after more than 20 customers and workers were reportedly infected with the virus. Although it has since reopened after several days of cleaning, other restaurants and bars in the Jacksonville area, and more broadly across the U.S., have been similarly whipsawed.

In Texas, at least a dozen restaurants in and around Houston have recently announced temporary shutdowns to sanitize their establishments and test employees after cases of the coronavirus emerged. From South Carolina to Wisconsin, a jump in COVID-19 cases is causing eateries that had opened after months of lockdowns to close.

UPDATE: Since first posting this, every other member of our staff who has gotten their results has tested negative,...

Posted by Cranky Pat's Pizza GB on Thursday, June 18, 2020

Arizona's alarming spike in cases prompted Gov. Doug Ducey last week to let cities and counties in the state enforce their own mask mandates, while stopping short of issuing a statewide requirement. The Republican governor's change in policy came as some businesses decided to close again, including Gila River Hotels & Casinos, which on Thursday temporarily shuttered all three of its properties, after reopening May 15. The announcement came a week after a security guard at Lone Butte Casino died of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, efforts to halt COVID-19 have proved to be political minefields, with Mr. Trump declining to wear a face mask or socially distance. The divisiveness also plays out state-by-state, with many Republican governors and mayors less likely than their Democratic counterparts to mandate the public safety measures advocated by federal health officials. 

With impressive strides made to battle the virus in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where positive test results and increases in cases currently stand at 1%, many other states are going in the wrong direction, according to analysts at investment bank Raymond James.  

"The upticks in new cases cannot be attributed only to additional testing as the percentage of tests returning positive results increased in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Utah," they wrote in a research note.

In Jacksonville, where the GOP plans to hold its national convention in August, Catullo's Italian Restaurant recently added its name to the list of those announcing another temporary closure due to the coronavirus.

"Well ladies and gents, it's happened to us as well. One of our employees tested positive today for Coronavirus. That being said, we're temporarily closing immediately and having our entire staff tested before returning to work, in addition to the restaurant getting professionally disinfected and sanitized. We'll update you when we can," the restaurant posted last Tuesday on Facebook. 

Well ladies and gents, it's happened to us as well. One of our employees tested positive today for Coronavirus. That...

Posted by Catullo's Italian on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Other businesses opted to take steps as a defensive measure. TacoLu of Jacksonville Beach on Tuesday announced it was reverting back to "takeaway-only, until we get a better feel for what's happening around this beach."

"We're being proactive in this matter, as we have not had any positive test results among our staff, yet, but there is a group of people who know people who have. It's a small beach," the eatery posted on Facebook.

Patrons are being strongly encouraged to wear masks while waiting in line at the Ugly Cupcake Muffinry, owner Ivy Wolf wrote on the Jacksonville Beach cafe's Facebook page this week. 

"This is a heavy burden to carry for a business owner, as a wrong decision can mean the loss of needed revenue or the health of a customer or staff member," posted Wolf. Should she have to close for a deep cleaning, it would cost as much as $6,000, and she would make her staff quarantine for two weeks, Wolf told a local outlet.

Blue Hill owner on the pandemic's impact 06:15

Another Jacksonville area eatery, Angie's Sub Shop, opted to shut down for two days of cleaning this week after an employee tested positive, the business posted on Facebook. 

The failure to halt the spread of the virus had Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, on Friday decrying what he called a "mistrust of science" on the part of many Americans

"The best way to protect yourself and to prevent acquisition of and spread of infection is to avoid crowds. Avoid crowds. If in fact, for one reason or other, you feel compelled to do that, which we don't recommend, then wear a mask at all times," Fauci told CBS News Radio's Steven Portnoy. 

In Florida, the state health department on Monday confirmed a total of 100,217 confirmed cases and 3,173 confirmed deaths. 

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