Several Route 66 states tighten access inside bars, restaurants because of virus

The Route 66 states of Illinois, California and New Mexico imposed new rules over the weekend that would restrict interior access of restaurants and taverns. All are being done an in effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Sunday all restaurants and bars will close for inside dining for more than two weeks, starting today, to limit the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions there would end on March 30.

Illinois restaurants will continue to be open for drive-through and pickup orders, however.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday he’s ordering all bars, breweries, and wineries in the state to close, regardless of size, to create “deep social distancing.” He did not dictate a specific period of time for the closures.

In New Mexico, the Department of Health tightened public-gathering rules forbidding more than 100 people in one place at a time, with several exceptions. Starting today, all restaurants, bars, breweries and other food establishments in the Land of Enchantment shall operate at no greater than 50% of occupancy and no greater than 50% of seating capacity.

Also, tables and booths may not seat more than six people, and all occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet. Patrons may not be seated at bars, and standing customers will not be served.

Ohio and Massachusetts have imposed similar restrictions. More likely are coming. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends a halt on gatherings of more than 50 people.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 160,000 worldwide and killed more than 6,000 as of Sunday night. In the United States, more than 3,600 have tested positive for the virus — an increase of 1,500 over the weekend alone — and killed almost 70.

According to disease experts, this strain of coronavirus is 10 to 15 times more lethal than seasonal influenza. The elderly and people with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. The virus is especially contagious because infected people without symptoms can spread it for up to three weeks.

U.S. health officials worry the pandemic will overwhelm the nation’s hospitals and intensive-care units, hence the unprecedented measures in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.

Italy’s health system, in particular, has been overwhelmed with seriously ill coronavirus patients, with an overall death rate of 7%.

President Donald Trump already has imposed a ban on travelers to the U.S. from Europe, United Kingdom and Ireland, which comprise 44% of all Route 66 travelers according to Touch Media CEO Marian Pavel. His company developed the Route 66 Navigation app.

With the new rules on restaurants and bars, even more Route 66 businesses will be hurting, no matter how long these restrictions last. It’s why Pavel recently announced his “Keep Calm and Travel Route 66 (Later)” campaign.

(Image of a nearly empty restaurant in California by Thomas Hawk via Flickr)

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