Business · California · COVID-19

Calif. health officials admit restaurant closures not driven by data

With restaurants quickly becoming a casualty in California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) demanded the state produce the data that health officials consistently said supported the decision to close restaurants. 

Last week, Borgeas revealed to The Sun that the data does not exist. 

Borgeas said California Health and human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told him that the state did not actually lean on any data regarding COVID-19 transmission in restaurants. 

“I was told they did not have data on transmissions,” Borgeas said. “And that there was no industry-specific breakdown of transmissions. 

In his weekly public health briefing Tuesday, Ghaly was asked about the decision to close down restaurants and if he had a response to people saying that there is no data to back those decisions up. 

Ghaly skirted the topic of data and instead focused on the big picture of keeping people in their own homes, preventing public mixing. 

“As it relates to the question about indoor dining or outdoor dining, I think one thing that I have tried to message and emphasize is that right now we’re seeing such high levels of transmission that almost every activity – I should say every activity – that can be done differently and keep us at our homes not mixing with others is safer,” Ghaly said. “Those are going to be the tools that help us get this under control.

“So the decision to include, among other sectors, outdoor dining and limiting that, turning to restaurants to deliver and provide takeout options instead, really has to do with the goal of trying to keep people at home – not a comment on the relative safety of outdoor dining. And we have worked hard with that industry to create safeer ways for outdoor dining to happen, to keeping tables farther apart to, to ensuring masking happens as much as possible, to create opportunities for air circulation to continue – all of those factors make sectors like outdoor dining lower risk. 

“But right now with the levels of transmission that we’re seeing, we advise against anything that you can do in another way in a lower risk way that avoids you either leaving your home or only leaving your home in a way that doesn’t expose you and cause you to mix with others.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.