Hospitality association leader: Wear masks now to enjoy restaurants in the fall.

Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, writes in Seattle Times op-ed of the importance of wearing masks to keep restaurants open in the fall and to rebuild the state economy. He notes that outdoor dining has provided been a “lifeline” for restaurants in the summer and adds,

But as summer turns to fall, wind, rain and cooler weather will return, and restaurants will lose the option for outdoor seating. If our state’s COVID-19 cases remain above 25 cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period, restaurants cannot open indoor dining and will have no choice but to close back down. Many of those will never reopen.

A fact that may surprise many:

The hospitality industry is the largest private employer in our state. Before COVID-19, restaurants and hotels employed about 300,000 people. The most recent numbers from the Employment Security Department show that 114,000 of our team members are no longer working. And for every dollar spent at a restaurant, 96 cents is put back into the local economy. Our state’s economic health and the health of our hospitality industry truly go hand in hand.

The industry was hit particularly hard in the early days of the pandemic. Anton reports,

It’s my responsibility to my members to have the best data possible so I can advocate for what’s objectively best for our industry and our state. So I built a spreadsheet at the start of the pandemic to track daily COVID-19 counts in every county. I cross reference the data to what’s happening in the communities — a mask mandate, a phase change or surges of social gatherings. I’m not an epidemiologist, but what I’ve found matches what every single public-health expert in the country has said: Wearing a mask helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. And when we work together, we can bend the curve quickly.

The clear conclusion:

So here’s the game plan: If we want our state’s economy to thrive, we need thriving restaurants. If we want thriving restaurants, we need more indoor seating for fall. And in order to get our case counts low enough to accommodate indoor seating in just a few weeks, we need to wear masks now and keep wearing them. 

The Washington Hospitality Association is part of a coalition of a dozen industry groups to promote mask wearing. Our message is simple: Your mask today saves a job tomorrow. You can join our campaign by posting a picture of yourself to social media using the hashtags #StaySafeWa and #MaskUpWa. Together, our masks today can save tens of thousands of jobs tomorrow when we need it the most.

We recommend reading the op-ed. And wearing a mask.