Restaurants are becoming 'scapegoat for reflexive shutdown': NRA says

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The National Restaurant Association is refuting claims that restaurants are contributing to the uptick in coronavirus cases nationwide, saying that they have become a "convenient scapegoat for reflexive shutdowns."

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The NRA issued a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA) claiming that there is "no scientific evidence" linking restaurants around the country — which they say operate within the Association's COVID-19 Safe Operating Guidance and follow local public health safety regulations — to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

Tom Bené, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association said that "data tying systemic community outbreaks of COVID-19 to restaurants has yet to emerge" and restaurants "are too commonly labeled as 'super-spreaders.'"

The letter comes as the nation struggles to rebound from a now-resurgent coronavirus. The fresh load of cases are delivering yet another blow to an industry reeling from lockdowns and occupancy restrictions. And with fears surrounding the virus, it remains unclear how readily Americans will return en masse to dining out.

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"There is an unfounded impression that restaurants are part of the problem, and we are suffering as a result of inconsistent, restrictive mandates," Bené said.

His rebuttal comes just after the CDC reported that adults who test positive for coronavirus are twice as likely to have reported dining at restaurants within the past two weeks, whether it's indoor, patio or outdoor seating.

The beer garden at The Syndicate on Aug. 20, 2020 in Bellefontaine, Ohio. (Susie Jarvis/Adam M. Rammel via AP)

Evidence pointing to a higher likelihood of contraction hinges on activities where masks are not worn and there are greater threats to exposure, including on-site eating or drinking. The CDC advised that efforts to reduce possible exposure at these types of locations “should be considered to protect customers, employees and communities.”

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After the report first surfaced, the association claimed the conclusions were flawed and said the CDC was "irresponsible” for blaming the spread of COVID-19 on a single industry.

In the association's latest letter, the NRA reiterated that under the association's guidance, restaurants operate under strict protocols including requiring face coverings for staff, requesting face coverings for guests, adding more frequent hand sanitizing, providing guests with hand sanitizers, and increasing the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces. Additionally, restaurants have updated floorplans to ensure social distancing of at least six feet between guests.

Moving forward, the association says "decisions regarding restaurant operations" should be "based on facts and contact-tracing data, not hypothetical simulations of transmission."

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Restaurant operations "should be treated the same as other retail establishments" and shutting down indoor dining should be considered a last option, the NRA argues.

If a shutdown is to occur, NRA says restaurants should be recognized as "essential businesses and remain open for takeout, delivery, and drive-through as well as outdoor dining.

Furthermore, if any changes are to occur, NRA says restaurants "should receive as much advance notice as possible."

FOX Business' Sumner Park' and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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