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Pandemic yo-yo rules: Dining in restaurants off limits again, reusable bags are now OK
dining tables

Everyone, it seems, lives to complain Manteca has no place to eat.

They share their thoughts rather passionately every time news breaks that another fast food restaurant is planning on opening in Manteca.

There are more than 150 places in Manteca where you can purchase prepared food whether it is a sit-down restaurant or a barbecue operation such as at Fagundes Meats.

If you think that number is going to swell anytime soon with additional sit down restaurants whether it is a chain you’ve been hoping will come to Manteca for years or additional mom and pop operations you are in an alternate reality.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive on Wednesday for 19 counties — including San Joaquin and Stanislaus — to close dining rooms in restaurants for a least the next three weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases could easily thin the ranks of dining options for years to come.

Everyone from national chains — company owned and franchises — to independent operators are teetering on the abyss.

Margins in restaurants to begin with are not that great due to the intense level of labor, minimum wage and other payroll squeezes, plus the need to not pass on too much additional cost in increased prices especially at once in a bid not to lose customers.

The fact restaurants now have to pull the plug on dine-in service just as people started to trickle back in the door after being in takeout mode only for over 2½ months means workers called back will be without jobs again. It also means that the ability to cover set costs such as rent and loans that outfitted restaurants will be greatly reduced.

If you want restaurants to survive to the point where one day you’ll be able to have sit down service and even do so without non-stop sanitizing, then for the next month or so “adopt” one of your favorite Manteca restaurants and order takeout at least once a week.

And by that I mean call them directly and pick up your food yourself. Every app driven food delivery service charges the restaurant as well you for their service.

The typical cost to a restaurant when you order through Grubhub is close to 30 percent. It’s a price restaurants pay in order not to be cut out of the takeout business that has been growing as more of us rely on convenience apps.

Takeout orders are the only lifeline restaurants have during pandemic closure orders. By opting for the convenience of an app it turns into a no win situation for restaurants that no longer have dine-in clients to counter the payola demands of a handful of delivery services that don’t even treat drivers as employees. The online delivery services have become so prevalent that restaurants in order to have a shot at surviving have to use them.

That means the big benefactors of takeout dining during the COVID-19 pandemic are venture capitalists pouring money into the likes of DoorDash by feasting on the carcasses of restaurants trying to survive.

If we don’t support our favorite restaurants by ordering takeout in the coming weeks without involving parasite delivery services, the mantra will change from “why isn’t there an Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory (two chains the pandemic has put on the ropes) in Manteca” to “why are the sit down restaurants closing in Manteca?”

Maybe the City of Manteca could lend a helping hand by stealing a page out of the City of Lathrop’s playbook and help organize a rewards drawing for those that access participating Manteca restaurants by directly ordering takeout and picking up the food themselves.



Re-usable bags again

OK in California stores

The fluid “expert” advice on the transmission of COVID-19 is reflected in California’s decision to temporarily ban re-usable bags.

The theory — which it clearly was — contended the virus was being spread because people in stores were exposed to reusable cloth bags. The 60-day ban was allowed to expire June 20 without being extended.

It means stores are now switching back to charging a dime for every bag you need from the store to carry out groceries.

There are some in this enlightened age of questioning authorities in the healthcare industry that will slam criticizing experts in the middle of a pandemic emergency, but the re-usable bag ban was a knee jerk reaction at best, and a decision that could have made going to the store more dangerous at worse.

I say that from observations going grocery shopping for the last two months. I’ve used cloth re-usable bags for grocery shopping exclusively for 13 years with rarely anyone else except for myself touching them.

During the past 60 days in places like Grocery Outlet where cashiers bagged groceries using the single use bag there was no signs of more “touching” going on.

But at Food-4-Less where cashiers would peel off single use bags, touching increased.

Clerks at Food-4-Less are fairly good at estimating the number of bags I’ll need but every once in a while they peeled off one too many. I’d leave the leftover ones behind for others to use just as I’ve noticed many others doing.

Based on what happened I’m not too sure the health experts who advised the governor to temporarily ban re-usable bags have ever actually gone grocery shopping at places where they had to bag their own groceries.

Pulling apart single use plastic bags is a venture in frustration. Besides the inconvenience, you are forced to manhandle the bags to separate them assuring my hands will have touched the surface of the part of the bag you need to hold to open much more intently than anything else in the store except for the handle bar of a shopping cart.

If anyone were to transfer COVID-19 by touch, the process employed with single use bags would not slow it down.

The science behind the decision involved material types and the possibility the person using the bag could inadvertently be transmitting the virus onto the material that a cashier or someone could pick up.

This is not as much as Monday morning quarterbacking as it is the state not thinking through the process. I do not know whether my cloth re-usable bags that the experts were sure could transmit the virus actually does but it stands to reason if a cashier has to repeatedly use other people’s re-useable bags, it increases their potential of being exposed.

By all means lift the ban on re-usable bags that the state has allowed to happen. That said why not require everyone that uses a re-usable bag to bag their own groceries? While that has always been the case at stores like Food-4-Less it isn’t at stores like Raley’s.

To simply let the ban lapse without such a modification it calls into question how thoroughly thought out some protocols dealing with COVID-19 really are.

The state can ill afford to undermine itself especially when they are struggling to get people to comply with some basic mandatory rules for face masks in specific indoor and outdoor cases.