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Updated: July 2, 2020

McDonald's hits pause on reopening dining rooms as coronavirus cases rise

Photo | FLICKR/VIA JJBERS A McDonald's restaurant in Middletown.

McDonald's is hitting pause on its plan to reopen its dining rooms for three weeks as states across the country block restaurants from reopening because of rising cases of Covid-19.

"Keeping with our thoughtful approach to reopening, effective today, we are pausing all dine-in reopening plans for 21 days," Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald's USA, and Mark Salebra, chair of the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, which represents some McDonald's franchise operators, wrote in a Wednesday letter to US franchise operators and employees. The plans in the letter, viewed by CNN, were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Several states have reversed their decisions to allow the resumption of certain indoor activities, including eating at restaurants, as coronavirus cases surge.

New Jersey recently decided not to allow indoor dining at restaurants. New York City followed suit, and California Governor Gavin Newsom instructed restaurants in several counties to halt dine-in services for at least three weeks.

McDonald's said in June that it had reopened the dining rooms of over 1,000 US restaurants with reduced seating capacity. Now, about 2,200 US locations — roughly 15% of all US restaurants — have reopened their dining rooms. Nearly all McDonald's US restaurants are open for delivery, drive-thru and takeout orders.

In Wednesday's letter, Erlinger and Salebra wrote that stores that have already reopened their dining rooms should review guidance from local government officials to determine whether they need to revert to takeout, delivery and drive-thru only. Restaurants that have reopened their dining rooms and aren't required to close but want to were instructed to consult with their operations officer and franchise business partners.

"To be clear: owner/operators will make the final decision in these situations," Erlinger and Salebra wrote. "Moving forward, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust as needed to protect the safety of our employees and customers," they said.

McDonald's prepared its reopening strategy months ago.

In May, it sent out a detailed reopening instruction manual to franchise operators in the United States.

The 59-page document outlines the minimum sanitation and social distancing requirements each must meet before opening its dining rooms, like closing off some tables and seating areas and using floor stickers to mark out "clearly recognizable paths" that will keep customers six feet away from each other while waiting in line.

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