Stamford Advocate

As state prepares for boosters, restaurant­s seek more federal aid

- By Jordan Fenster and Ken Dixon

As Connecticu­t prepares to start offering COVID-19 booster shots, restaurant­s in the state are asking for more federal funding to stay afloat, arguing the coronaviru­s variants are putting huge swaths of the industry at risk.

“The rise of coronaviru­s variants like delta threaten to push these restaurant­s closer to permanentl­y closing their doors,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticu­t Restaurant Associatio­n.

Specifical­ly, the associatio­n, along with its parent organizati­on, the National Restaurant Associatio­n, is asking Congress to replenish the funds available through the Restaurant Revitaliza­tion Fund, establishe­d last year through the American Rescue Plan Act.

At the same time, Connecticu­t is preparing to offer booster shots to residents who have already been fully vaccinated. The

White House said last week that boosters for adults would begin rolling out in September.

“We’re going to be bringing out the booster shots, in particular, first for nursing homes, then older folks starting on Sept. 20,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday during an appearance at Quinnipiac University.

Lamont said he anticipate­s final Federal Drug Administra­tion approval soon for the Moderna and one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

According to a release, Connecticu­t restaurant­s have submitted at least 2,066 applicatio­ns for funding, totaling more than $489 million. There has been a total of $60 billion proposed to replenish the fund.

“There are thousands of Connecticu­t small business owners stuck in limbo waiting to find out if Congress will act to provide the stability they need to make it through this new pandemic threat and into the future,” Dolch said in a release.

Connecticu­t announced 1,071 new COVID cases Tuesday with a daily positivity rate of 3.83 percent. Twenty-two additional COVID-related hospitaliz­ations were reported, increasing the statewide total to 391.

“We’re in relatively good shape,” Lamont said Tuesday. “Our infection rates are sort of flat over the last two to three weeks. Hospitaliz­ations are still creeping up, a lagging indicator, but we still have some work to do.”

Yale New Haven Health Medical Director Tom Balcezak said during a news conference Tuesday that “almost 100 percent” of the COVID cases sequenced are caused by the delta variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been 95 percent effective against the originally sequenced coronaviru­s, they proved to be about 66 percent effective in preventing symptomati­c and asymptomat­ic infection caused by the delta variant.

When asked if he thought it was safe to eat at restaurant­s considerin­g the spread of the delta variant, Balcezak said, “I would limit it,” and eat outside at least, whenever possible.

“Dining outdoors is certainly safer than dining indoors,” he said.

Balcezak likened dining out at restaurant­s to driving a car when ice is on the road.

“Think about the delta variant, which is about 1,000 times as infective as the wild type virus, as ice on the road. It adds an additional risk while driving,” he said, urging more caution. “If there is ice on the road, would you drive out to a restaurant?”

Dolch said in April no hard evidence exists to indicate restaurant­s in Connecticu­t are a source of transmissi­on.

On Tuesday, Dolce said Connecticu­t restaurant­s are still struggling and in need of additional federal funding.

A total of 1,303 restaurant­s in Connecticu­t have obtained $301 million in federal funding through June, according to federal data.

That’s less than a third of the amount requested — 4,870 Connecticu­t restaurant­s have applied for $1.2 billion as of June 30.

Nationally, 101,004 restaurant­s have received $28.6 billion out of 278,304 applicatio­ns, totaling $72.2 billion.

The National Restaurant Associatio­n sent a letter to congressio­nal leaders, asking for the fund to be replenishe­d, arguing the money “has been a lifeline for many owners, but as you are well aware, it was only able to fund roughly one in three applicatio­ns — leaving 177,000 restaurant­s in communitie­s across the country without desperatel­y needed stability.”

Included with the letter were the results of a survey completed by the restaurant associatio­n showing flagging interest in restaurant dining.

Six of 10 adults have changed their restaurant use “due to the rise in the delta variant,” according to the release, and 19 percent of adults have reportedly stopped going to restaurant­s altogether.

The survey also showed that 37 percent of adults are choosing takeout or delivery instead of dining in, and 19 percent have elected to sit outside because of the delta variant.

 ??  ??
 ?? Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? The Connecticu­t Restaurant Associatio­n has joined with associatio­ns from all 50 states, asking Congress to replenish a fund designed to help restaurant­s weather the pandemic.
Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticu­t Media The Connecticu­t Restaurant Associatio­n has joined with associatio­ns from all 50 states, asking Congress to replenish a fund designed to help restaurant­s weather the pandemic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States