The Way We Work Now

I Work at a Restaurant in Florida Where Customers Think the Coronavirus Is a Hoax

Our restaurant has been open at full capacity for weeks — even indoors

Mai Tran
GEN
Published in
4 min readNov 17, 2020

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Photo illustration; source: SERGIO FLORES/AFP via Getty Images

The Way We Work Now is a series chronicling how people’s lives and careers have fundamentally changed because of the pandemic.

Justin is a twentysomething server in a conservative pocket of Palm Beach, Florida. He spoke to Mai Tran about returning to work in a state where Covid-19 cases have topped 870,000.

I started working at a family-owned bar and restaurant in Palm Beach County, Florida, in the beginning of March. When I got there it was already in the “we don’t really know what’s going to happen” stage. In mid-April, we got the order to go into lockdown, and by May 8 or 9, we went right back to indoor dining. Inside the restaurant, we were doing half capacity, so every other table was available, but outside was pretty much full capacity. Customers weren’t allowed to dine indoors without masks, but there weren’t any restrictions outside. The restaurant added four or five new outdoor tables to try to make up for the indoor losses.

When we first reopened, I felt safe going back. Because the lockdown had ended, I thought the number of cases was going down, but as time went on nothing was changing. If anything, the numbers were going up and we were being less careful. Bartenders were getting lazy with their masks, and we were starting to have more people at the bar than we were probably allowed to. We used to close early, then a month and a half ago we went back to normal hours. We also went back to full capacity, so it was an open bar and every table was available.

They would talk about the death toll and infectivity like it wasn’t a big deal or it was being exaggerated.

As of September 25, there’s no longer a mandatory mask mandate in the state of…

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