GI business owner, health officials stay cautious for Phase 3

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 7:14 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Central District Health Department is officially in Phase 3 of reopening, and although COVID-19 cases remain low, there are many uncertainties ahead.

That’s especially true for local food joints.

Brent Lindner, owner of Wave Pizza Co., said they didn’t see large crowds during Phase 2 of the Directed Health Measure.

The restaurant did have success with carry out and delivery, with some anonymous donors buying hundreds of pizzas to feed healthcare workers and first responders, but the loss of foot traffic took a heavy financial toll on the business.

“Overall it was not good, but we had enough coming in so we could meet some of the bills and things that were rolling in,” Lindner said. “It wasn’t perfect. The ship was taking on water, but we’re moving in the right direction and still afloat.”

That new course allows restaurants and bars to operate at 100 percent capacity with up to eight people per table. Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited.

But as coronavirus cases increase around the country, food establishments are filled with a level of uncertainty.

“Some of these places have reopened, and now they’re getting shut down again,” Lindner said. “I don’t know if we’re going to make it through this, and if we have another time where we get shut down - I just don’t know. That’s a scary thing for a lot of us.”

The number of positive cases within the Central District Health Department’s three-county area is down.

The CDHD reported the positivity rate in Hall, Hamilton and Merrick Counties has been between 3 to 9 percent the past few weeks. But it’s possible it may not stay that way.

“We are fairly certain that we will see an increased number of cases at some point,” said Teresa Anderson, health director at the CDHD. “What that means to us, we don’t know, because the COVID virus is unpredictable.”

Anderson said although Phase 3 has loosened restrictions, people need to keep practicing social distancing and wearing masks in public. When out to eat at restaurants, Anderson recommends carrying hand sanitizer, sitting 6 feet away from other parties and going at less busy times.

“The virus is still in our community. We know that unless we continue to take precautions, we’ll see those numbers rise,” Anderson said.

She said the Fourth of July holiday will be a test, and they’ll know within a few weeks if cases rose after that weekend.

Lindner said he applied for and received a PPP loan. He also applied for a Nebraska Small Business Stabilization Grant. Now, he said all they can do is move forward.

“We’ve been here 20 plus years, and we’re hoping to be here another 20 years,” Lindner said.

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