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Ohio restaurants continue to adjust as COVID lingers and cases begin to increase

The most recent numbers from the Ohio Department of Health released Thursday, Aug. 17, showed an increase of about 4,200 cases from the week before.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — COVID-19 cases are making their rounds again thanks to a new variant. This uptick in cases recently has state, county and city health officials keeping a close eye on things. 

The most recent numbers from the Ohio Department of Health released Thursday, Aug. 17, showed an increase of about 4,200 cases from the week before. That was the third straight week of case increases.  

"COVID-19 is not going away. It's going to be a virus that's going to live with us for a long time. It's going to have peaks and valleys. Right now we're seeing a slight increase in cases,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Health Commissioner for the City of Columbus. “Just because the pandemic is over and testing isn't as readily available as it used to be, COVID-19 is still a threat.” 

It’s not a secret the restaurant and service industry was hit hard by the pandemic. John Barker, President and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said around 100,000 restaurants closed during the worst of the pandemic nationwide.  

"Almost everybody is a little bit short handed," he said. Staffing issues still plague many restaurants. He said there simply aren’t enough bodies to fill the spots.  

He said it’s not all bleak. Many of the restaurants that survived the pandemic figured out how to better their product.  

“Their food is better, right? Their presentation is better. They're better at hospitality,” Barker said.  

One such restaurant is Saucy Brew Works in Columbus. That location opened during the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020. General Manager Tyler Bruce said he’s worked in the service industry for years but the last three have been by far the most challenging. 

COVID-19 is the only environment Saucy Brew Works has known. Bruce and his staff have worked hard to overcome the challenges that come their way.  

"Sourcing food has been difficult. One week we get our tomatoes from this person. The next week we get them from somebody else or it's a totally different product,” he said.  

For him, staffing the restaurant and bar isn’t the biggest issue. It’s the sourcing of products and finding ways to draw customers in. For him, that means free events through the week to attract new patrons. Bruce said COVID-19 has just become a part of doing business now.  

"It's probably something that's going to stay forever. The whole business is changing as a whole. It's adjusting and I'm excited to see what this place can be when it's a little more relaxed,” Bruce said.  

Those wanting a vaccination or booster in the city of Columbus can get them at the city’s health department through the week. They also have testing kits available. For those who can’t make it to the office or aren’t comfortable getting out, city health workers will do a house call on request. 

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