Public Health Officials Seem Lost in Twilight Zone
Dining in the modern developed world should give patrons some sense of security knowing the restaurants operate under the watchful jurisdictions of Public Health Authorities oversight. Where are these leaders now when they are needed most? They seem to be AWOL. Over the past several weeks I have visited dozens of cities across Michigan in more than twelve counties, and am seeing these tents pop up everywhere. (without having actually set foot inside a restaurant myself). As an entrepreneur, and lifelong foodie I am of course deeply concerned for the thousands of restaurateurs and their staffs whose livelihoods have been disrupted during the COVID-19 Pandemic. But I am even more worried about the chain of infections being formed among groups of people I have seen cramming themselves into what are essentially plastic bubbles with insufficient air exchange.
Not so long ago I imagine that the typical restaurant manager’s thoughts about health and safety were mostly limited to mundane matters such as keeping the floors degreased to prevent slip and falls, and making sure the can opener doesn’t rust and spread tetanus. A quick inspection each day to check refrigerator temperatures and to ensure the counters where food is prepared are properly cleaned and sanitized to prevent the spread of typhus, salmonella Shiga toxin, and listeria would have sufficed.
But those matters were far less, rewarding, challenging, and interesting than say stacking the menu with delicious items that will sell out or taking reservations for weekends and other peak times when occupancy would be full and revenues aplenty. but above there were ten people crowded inside one 6x6 foot tent. More people than could have traveled to the Wealthy Street Restaurant in a single-vehicle.
We have known for some time that as many as half of all COVID-19 transmissions are occurring from presymptomatic individuals. Viral Titer (viral particles per milliliter of blood) are high in those people but the subjects have yet to develop the telltale fever or other symptoms that might warn them to avoid contact with other people. When you erect a tent outdoors, the inside of that tent is de facto an indoor environment. An environment that has not been properly inspected for heating, ventilation, and Air conditioning. Erecting a tent as a way to increase the dining area is not a safe practice. It is grossly negligent to allow people to gather in tiny tents during a pandemic involving a respiratory pathogen, period. This is an environment having one entrance and lacking cross ventilation and proper air exchange. In sum, these well-meaning restaurateurs who have kindly installed heaters within those tents have created the perfect human viral incubators. I called my local health department but so far no one has returned my call. It appears that no one from the health department is able to do the job. That is a worrisome situation indeed.