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UCSF doctor says no clear evidence linking outdoor dining to COVID-19 spread

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Restaurant owners in San Francisco are struggling even more now that outdoor dining is shut down.

The city forced restaurants to go back to take out and delivery only a week ago, as the stay-at-home order went into effect.

Now, many are weighing in on the city’s shutdown saying outdoor dining hasn’t been linked to significant coronavirus cases.

Dr. Monica Gandhi says it’s fair for these restaurants to question the shutdown of outdoor dining.

At this point, she says there’s been no data specifically linking outdoor dining to the spread of coronavirus cases.

A grim sight in San Francisco, quiet streets and empty outdoor dining parklets after the city went under a stay-at-home order last week.

Restaurant and bar owner Ben Bleiman says this will be the final nail in the coffin for many restaurants.

“This will put businesses permanently out of business. This will bankrupt people,” Ben Bleiman said. “We pay billions of dollars in taxes, just the San Francisco hospitality industry alone billions of dollars in taxes a year and right now we have been filling up the state and city with tax dollars for years and years and years and at the time we need the most help, crickets from there.”

Like many other owners, Bleiman says the frustrating part is seeing no data behind the city’s decision to close down outdoor dining.

“I don’t know if it’s better to shut it down but the reason I don’t know is because we’re not given any data and I’m not given any communication from the powers showing me this is going to work,” Bleiman said. 

Infectious disease scientist at UCSF, Dr. Monica Gandhi, says there’s been no clear evidence linking outdoor dining to the spread of the virus.

“There hasn’t been any data presented that if done right with ventilation, with masking, hand hygiene and distancing, smaller tables. Everything that people did and many restaurants did to keep it safe that restaurants became a root of spread,” Dr. Gandhi said. 

Instead, a couple studies were done on dining in general.

Dr. Gandhi pointed to one done by the CDC that found eating at restaurants increased the risk of COVID-19 but it did not differentiate between indoor and outdoor dining.

Obviously San Francisco restaurants aren’t the only ones questioning or fighting this decision.

Just last week, over in LA County, a judge ruled that the county acted arbitrarily in closing down restaurants saying the county couldn’t prove that these businesses are causing a spike in cases.

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