The COVID-19 crisis continues to threaten businesses

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Many businesses that were already short on employees are now forced to close when workers test positive for COVID-19 presenting another to surviving the pandemic.

The Munch Factory caters to a loyal clientele.

“We are always excited to serve everyone. We are making everything from scratch all the time,” Co-owner Alexis Ruiz said,

Ruiz and her chef husband own the eatery inside the clubhouse at Joseph Bartholomew Golf Course in Pontchartrain Park that managed to stay open for 18 months with take-out and counter service through the pandemic.

“In the restaurant industry you are day to day anyway so in the restaurant industry in a pandemic you’re almost hour to hour, Ruiz said.

The streak ended last week when a head cook was exposed and then tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was kind of like one of those, ‘Boom close.’ Let’s not waste any time,” said Ruiz. “Let’s make sure everybody has enough time to go and get their test and once he came back positive, we realized it was better for us to stay closed the whole week to make sure we had no false negatives.”

In an abundance of caution to make sure to contain the virus and not overwork the rest of the employees the restaurant remained closed a full week until Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

“We’re such a small crew that when one person goes down it really does affect the entire operation,” said Ruiz.

Jefferson Parish Councilman and business owner Scott Walker said his Old-Metairie Do-nut shop closed for nearly 3 weeks with two lead employees testing positive, one hospitalized. Walker said, “So just as you’re starting to climb back up, you get knocked down again.”

The restaurant reopened Saturday, August 7, 2021. “Being in the position I’m in, it’s seeing it from both sides because you’re trying to balance public health with the ability of our businesses to continue to survive and it’s been a rough road for a lot,” said Walker.

Dr. Walter Lane, Chair of Economics and Finance at UNO, thinks this latest surge will kill a lot of small businesses.

“I do really believe a lot of us thought we were getting back to normal again and then all of a sudden whack,” Lane said.

Lane said the last year and a half already put many business owners in a precarious position.

“They don’t really have any slack left in the system and so any small thing that affects their revenues becomes almost the, you know, unassailable or something that they can’t hardly handle,” he said.

Both Ruiz and Walker shared concerns about keeping employees paid without revenue coming in.

“I have a sign that broke today, Walker said. “When you know you have expenses that keep coming in, they don’t stop because of COVID and you don’t have the same income, so it’s a daily battle.”

Ruiz hopes to be able to stay the course, “It’s just about taking care of people. Customers and employees.”

As businesses navigate the latest Covid crisis Lane says the pandemic is forcing a structural shift in the entire labor market and there will be a lot of changes in pay and work culture. Unfortunately, before then, he says a lot of businesses will not make it through the current uncertainty.

Walker hopes to encourage more people to get vaccinated. He said, “The only thing that we kind of can do now is build those vaccination numbers.”

“Right now in Jefferson Parish. We’re at about 50% of the population vaccinated. That’s not enough,” said Walker. “It is a very personal decision for people. I understand that some people have hesitation and that’s their right to have hesitation, but I was vaccinated. I support getting the vaccine, and if you’re able to and you’re on the fence, I highly recommend doing so. Talk to your doctor.”

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