‘It’s making things really challenging’: As officials warn about COVID surge, local businesses already seeing impacts

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — It is the busy holiday season for businesses and a time for them to bring in revenue ahead of the new year. However, as the new COVID surge makes its way through the islands, one thing is missing at some restaurants.

“We’re experiencing probably seven or eight call-outs a day in positions on the front of house, and it’s making things really challenging,” said Drew Crocker, general manager of Duke’s Waikiki.

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The issue is not that employees are testing positive. Instead, it is because they are close contacts to people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and need to stay home.

“We’ve seen a significant amount of close contacts and a lot of employees under quarantine the last two weeks ever since we’ve been talking about the omicron variant showing up here in Honolulu,” Crocker added.

After seeing dozens of restaurants close their doors during the pandemic, the Hawaii Restaurant Association is concerned about what is to come with this new COVID surge.

“If for some reason omicron goes higher and some more restrictions come, we will see restaurants close as fast as we’ve ever seen it because people just can’t hang on anymore.”

Greg Maples, Hawaii Restaurant Association chair

The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling (HiPAM) work group is predicting cases to spike. According to its model, they are looking at about 900 daily cases with an estimated 174 hospital beds in use by Dec. 31.

“That’s how it typically starts is a slow exponential rise and then, boom, you have hundreds and hundreds of cases,” said Dr. Thomas Lee, epidemiologist. “So, I think the weekend will be telling.”

Restaurants are reminding guests to bring patience and their holiday spirit as wait times may be a little longer and capacity may be limited.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

“Hopefully we can move enough staff around and ask people to work that sixth day or that extra half shift, so we can maintain as much capacity as possible. That’s kind of our goal and our game plan to do that,” explained Crocker.

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