HAMBURG, N.Y. — New data released by New York State on Friday showed that restaurants and bars accounted for less than 1.5 percent of COVID-19 cases over the last three months, September, October, and November.
The number is the fifth-highest among other contact-traced locations such as gyms and salons.
However, restaurants and bars comparatively were much lower than spread linked to household gatherings, which accounted for nearly 75 percent of all cases according to the same state data.
With indoor dining still closed in orange zone areas like the majority of Erie County, leaving many restaurants on their last leg, 2 On Your Side asked the owner of Butera's in Hamburg how the new data might change his approach.
"I'm not saying I'm optimistic, I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing. It is what it is, and we're going to get through this," Jimmy Butera said.
His Main Street restaurant started churning out hot food to go back in March, adapting to the pandemic, and he is still doing so on a busy Friday night.
"We're going to do what we have to do, whether it's indoor or takeout only. We're forced to just hunker down and get it done," Butera said.
Like every restaurant, he has had to shift from being closed, to open, to takeout only, and vice versa. Butera is now focused on keeping all his staff through the holidays but says there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel.
Butera told 2 On Your Side the data released Friday that less than 1.5 percent of cases have been linked to restaurants or bars won't change his mentality either and doesn't believe the orders issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo were meant to be malicious.
"Seeing the devastation this pandemic has been doing to some of my colleagues has been hard to witness, it's hard to come into my own restaurant and see empty tables...but we just keep going," he said.
"It's tough to say what the outcome would have been if we would have known, I think we've been telling the story from the very beginning, this was going to be very devastating to the restaurant industry," said New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleishchut.
Fleishchut said the now illustrated impact simply confirms what many restaurants had already been saying but doesn't offer a solution to those struggling.
Her group has been pushing Congress for that aid since early on in the pandemic.
"What will the money look like in six months? Will we be open at 100%? So, so much uncertainty for the [restaurant] industry, grants, and a restaurant relief fund is what's needed," she said.
Previous aid through the Paycheck Protection Program [PPP] and low-interest loans Fleishchut didn't answer the needs of restaurant owners as well as other federal aid could have.
She hopes the round of funding being discussed now in Washington D.C. will address those gaps but until then Butera and other business owners are urging one thing.
"It doesn't matter if you're a shoe store, ice cream parlor, a local retailer. Our community needs to support all local and small business, that's the take away here."
A sentiment that is even more important this close to the holidays.