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January 5, 2021

Restaurants push back on COVID-19 cluster report

Photo | Contributed CRA’s Scott Dolch (far right) with Sen. Richard Blumenthal at Olio Restaurant in Groton in 2020.

The state’s restaurant industry pushed back against a recent report linking restaurants to a significant proportion of identified COVID-19 clusters even as Gov. Ned Lamont reiterated his commitment to keep restaurants open for indoor dining.

A Department of Public Health report on 84 recent clusters of virus cases in Connecticut traced 21 of them to restaurants, although almost all of the cases were found in back-of-the-house workers like cooks. The Hartford Courant reported on the cluster study on Monday although it was not officially released.

“Closing down indoor dining doesn’t address the issue of the kitchens,” Lamont said Monday in his daily COVID-19 briefing. He added that he had no immediate plans to add further pandemic restrictions to restaurant service.

The DPH study sampled only a small proportion of COVID-19 clusters in the state and would result in no policy changes, agreed Josh Geballe, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.

Reporting on the coronavirus cluster study triggered a strong response from Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

“Connecticut restaurants began operating indoors June 17, and for more than four months they did so while Connecticut continued to keep daily positive tests rate at 1% or below,” Dolch said in a statement. “While there is clearly community spread, there is also demonstrable proof that restaurants operating with indoor service did not cause the type of spreads you would see if restaurants accounted for nearly a quarter of clusters, as DPH's report seems to suggest.”

A recent study of COVID-19 outbreaks in Massachusetts found 35,269 active clusters, out of which only 75 were connected to restaurants and food courts.

“Restaurants have and will continue to be leaders in safety and sanitation, and in that spirit we will work with our partners in government to understand this information they’ve released and hopefully learn from it,” Dolch said.

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January 5, 2021

Glad to hear that restaurant are fighting back. The level of mis-information is grave and for a government agency to report information that is not valid does not help when they need public support.

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