Local restaurants in Grant County expressed concerns and hopes for the future as Oregon enters a two-week freeze on many activities.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the two-week freeze on Nov. 13, which will place limitations on many businesses.
The freeze, which is scheduled for Nov. 18 to Dec. 2, will restrict restaurants and bars to only serving takeout.
Shannon Adair, owner of 1188 Brewing Company in John Day, said, while this is frustrating, it was expected with the rise of COVID-19 cases and more activities taking place indoors.
“I hope it’s just two weeks, but it’s going to surprise me if it’s only two weeks,” Adair said.
During the statewide shutdown that began in the spring, 1188 closed its doors along with many other businesses and did not provide takeout at the time.
Adair said they didn’t provide takeout because they were not prepared to provide the option and the local area hadn’t focused too much on take out prior the first shutdown.
Adair said 1188 made changes through the summer with a new program at the pub that provided customers an option to order online through their website or by using the Toast Takeout App. The community has also gotten more used to using the takeout option at restaurants since the first shutdown.
“I think we’re in a better position to at least try it,” Adair said about takeout this time around. “If we get to a point to where we’re spending more money than what we’re bringing in, then we’ll close until we can open.”
The federal grants through the Paycheck Protection Program helped pay employees, even if they weren’t working, during the initial lockdown, but Adair said with those funds used up, the restaurant will have to run based on profits.
Adair said the restaurant anticipated another shutdown so they began packaging their baked goods and pre-packaging their beer and merchandise so items can be readily available through online purchases.
“I think we all need to continue to work together and try to support each other and share information as it comes in and try and help each other out,” Adair said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Shawn Duncan, owner of Squeeze-In Restaurant in John Day, said she was upset with the decision from Brown and asked why there was resentment against restaurants when grocery stores and other larger facilities have more people going around.
“Why the restaurants when we are already doing 6-foot spacing and we have tables taken out?” Duncan said. “As long as we have the spacing, why can’t we continue on? I just don’t know why she thinks the restaurants are the problem. We aren’t.”
Duncan said she thinks a restaurant is a secure facility because many of them have implemented the COVID-19 guidelines to remain open and keep people safe.
The two weeks will have an impact because each day matters during the winter season, especially with the loss of revenue from the lack of summer tourism, Duncan said.
“We were just getting back on our feet again, and people were getting comfortable with coming in again, and now it’s going to take forever to get it back to that point again in the winter,” Duncan said.
The five-day delay before the freeze takes effect has at least provided Duncan time to prepare for the shutdown by not buying more groceries. Prior to the first shutdown, Duncan lost an abundant amount of produce since there wasn’t much warning before it began.
Brenda Coley, owner of The Snaffle Bit Dinner House in John Day, said she is fed up following the announcement from the state.
“I think we’ve played the game long enough, and we know what it’s all about. It’s all about the election, and believe me, yes, the virus is real and people are getting tested,” Coley said. “Are they sick? No, they are not sick. They are just getting tested, and they are testing positive. That does not mean they’re sick. They don’t have the symptoms, but they’re testing positive.”
Harvard Health Publishing, the consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School, said people who test positive for COVID-19 and are without symptoms can refer to two groups. A person who eventually does have symptoms, pre-symptomatic, and those who never go on to have symptoms, asymptomatic.
“During this pandemic, we have seen that people without symptoms can spread the coronavirus infection to others,” according to Harvard Health Publishing. “A person with COVID-19 may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience symptoms. In fact, people without symptoms may be more likely to spread the illness, because they are unlikely to be isolating and may not adopt behaviors designed to prevent spread.”
The publication added that a recent study compared the amount of coronavirus in the nose, throat, and lungs of symptomatic and asymptomatic adults, and they had similar amounts of virus in their bodies throughout the infection.
Coley said free tests are incentivizing more people to get tested, and the positive results are causing people to get scared as the state continues to overstep their boundaries.
“If we’re going to die, we might as well take our chances,” Coley said. “We could be killed tomorrow in a car wreck. I could be killed on my way home tonight.”
Coley said it is important to stick up for her business and what is going to put food on the table, especially since the first shutdown in Oregon ended up being months and not weeks as promised back in spring. Coley said she doubts the shutdown will only last two weeks.
She said the two weeks will hurt many businesses because it is a long time to be closed after the initial, several month shutdown.
“They didn’t need another shutdown. It’s all about control,” Coley said. “Shutting small businesses down is not the answer. If they’re going to shut small businesses down, then they need to shut the big businesses down too because it’s only fair.”
Grant County Commissioner Jim Hamsher said he hopes the people who tested positive recover and his biggest worry has been protecting the most vulnerable and keeping COVID-19 away from care centers, assisted living and retirement homes. However, he said there needs to be more local control because the local hospital and health department can make better decisions than a blanket mandate across the state.
“They say it many times: You see one county in Oregon, you’ve seen one county,” Hamsher said. “What may work in Grant County might not work in Baker County. I just keep pushing for more local control.”
State Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, said in a press release that he also disagreed with the blanket mandate from the Brown.
“Governor Brown’s one-size-fits-all approach to shutting down our state is far too extreme,” Owens said. “Our eastern and rural Oregon communities in House District 60 will suffer to the point of no return.”