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Seattle restaurateur: WA state ignores data that doesn’t support shutdowns

Murals and paintings from local artists cover the side of businesses and restaurants in Seattle closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Meili Cady/KIRO Radio)

Governor Inslee announced over the weekend a return to COVID lockdown requirements where restaurants and bars have to be closed for indoor dining, and can only do takeout, delivery, and, in some instances, outdoor dining. Chad Mackay, CEO of Fire and Vine Hospitality, which includes El Gaucho, joined the Jason Rantz Show with his reaction.

At the offset, Mackay doesn’t believe the local restaurant industry got too much input with regards to the new requirements.

“The association was working really hard and then it looked like Friday night, everything changed. And instead of maybe a two week closure and then rolling back, it turned into a four week, and I think all of us were just shocked. It leaked out on Saturday and employees crying and asking me, ‘What’s going on and why are they doing this to us?’ It’s tough,” he said.

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Mackay says the data doesn’t support such strict measures on restaurants, and that the government has not been consistent in the use and application of that data.

“First of all, my heart goes out to the frontline workers who are working their tails off … But the contact tracing that was done showed that less than half a percent of infections were contact traced back to restaurants. And that’s what we’ve been arguing, saying why are we not looking at that data. And now they say that data is wrong. I think the great line was ‘an absence of evidence doesn’t mean an evidence of absence,’ which means we don’t know,” he said.

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“They did cite the recent study that was done by Stanford, and published, and peer reviewed as basically saying that restaurants were great spreading events. If you actually look at that study, the authors were not arguing for shutdowns,” Mackay said. “They knew economically it was going to impact the most vulnerable populations. What they argue is for capacity constraints that if you reduced capacity to 20-25% that you could end up reducing infections by 80%, if it indeed was the case … And still, that is a correlation study.”

He ultimately wishes the governor was more honest about what they don’t actually know, rather than picking and choosing which data they want to follow.

“A more honest answer from the governor would have been to say, ‘We don’t know, and therefore we’re going to do this.’ But what they keep saying is data and science and pointing to different things. But they only point to what is convenient for them and they ignore the other pieces,” Mackay said.

“We’re talking about 100,000 lives impacted starting on Wednesday,” he added. “That’s how many people are going to lose their jobs over this. And go on to a state unemployment system that isn’t winning any gold stars or medals for the way it’s run. You’re going to dump 100,000 people on that this week with no great unemployment benefit right now, through no fault of their own or ours. It’s shocking. I mean, the best relief right now is a job.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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