Restaurants lash back at Dr. Fauci, say data shows bigger outbreak sources


DENVER (KDVR) — Dr. Anthony Fauci stirred an already bubbling pot Dec. 1 when in a video conference with Gov. Jared Polis he suggested Colorado close its bars and restaurants but open its schools.

Those businesses say there is no science to prove they’re the source of widespread outbreaks.

Outbreaks only account for a fraction of overall cases, and state officials mostly blame individual interactions as the largest infection source.

“Outbreaks are one important tool that tell us about disease transmission trends, but they are not the only tool,” said the Colorado State Joint Information Center. “COVID-19 can be transmitted in numerous settings without causing a confirmed outbreak.”

Still, outbreak data agrees with restauranteurs.

Owner of North Denver’s legendary La Casita say they abide by all the guidelines and are being unfairly singled out.

“It’s just not right,” said Julio Saragosa, La Casita’s manager. “You can go to any of these grocery stores or department stores and there’s no separation. You can wait in line to pay for your groceries and there’s people surrounding you.”

But it was restaurants and bars – at full capacity – that Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday could spread the novel coronavirus. That stirred the debate once again pitting restaurants against COVID-19 restrictions, even though indoor dining is not allowed in Colorado now.

“In Colorado we are seeing our restaurants that are open be open with very restrictive measures and many are going above and beyond that to keep people safe,” said Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The governor’s office said during Thanksgiving week 204 business inspections were made. Only two were suspended because of dangerous conditions. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says only 3.5% of restaurant outbreaks were among customers.

“The data is not showing that the spread is happening in restaurants and bars,” Riggs said. “The state’s own data does not back up what we are hearing.”

Riggs analysis is correct, according to state outbreak data.

CDPHE tracks all instances of two or more people who have contracted COVID-19 from the same place within a two week time window. K-12 schools have produced more outbreaks in Colorado than any other category, including healthcare facilities.

To Riggs’ point, schools are a much larger COVID-19 culprit by this metric.

Schools have produced twice as many individual outbreaks than sit-down restaurants – 238 to restaurants’ 122. Healthcare facilities and offices/indoor workplaces have also produced more individual outbreaks than restaurants and bars.

Bars and taverns are one of the state’s least outbreak-prone location types, only producing 14 outbreaks since the pandemic began.

K-12 schools are not only producing more individual outbreaks but more individual cases from those outbreaks.

Schools have produced twice as many confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases than sit-down restaurants and bars combined.

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