Is McDonald's Closing Indoor Dining?

Some McDonald's outlets are preparing to close indoor seating areas or limit opening hours due to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

In a call with franchisees last Wednesday, senior McDonald's staff recommended outlets consider closing indoor seating in counties where COVID cases exceed 250 per 100,000 people on a rolling three-week average.

The fast-food franchise plans to make its decision on closing indoor seating areas not just on the COVID case numbers, but also on feedback from customers and staff, as well as local regulations. Dining room decisions will be made locally with owner/operators working in partnership with McDonald's field offices.

"As much as we want to be done with COVID, we must accept that COVID isn't done with us. The Delta variant is biting deeply into the country's progress. For the first time since February, the US is averaging more than 130,000 new cases a day," McDonald's U.S. president Joe Erlinger said, according to meeting notes viewed by Newsweek.

"Even as fatigue re-emerges, as leaders, we must lean in. This means we cannot lose the discipline we had over the past 18 months—and this was echoed in the recent System communication from the NFLA Recovery Team," he added.

"We must operate our business from the same mindset we had during the peak. Our judicious focus on actions, checking in with our people, being proactive, and highlighting safety remain critical."

Despite the planned closures, Erlinger said he was "incredibly confident" that the fast-food giant would be able to navigate the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the company had learned over the past year how to handle the situation.

He said McDonald's now has a better understanding of what actions "make a difference" to ensure the safety of its customers and staff.

Materials obtained from the meeting did not specify when the restaurants might close, or how many of them.

"We're monitoring the impact of the Delta variant closely and recently convened together with our franchisees to underscore existing safety protocols, reinforce our people-first approach and provide updates on the rise in cases in the country," McDonald's Corp said in a statement to Newsweek on Tuesday.

"As we've seen over the last 18 months, McDonald's successfully served customers however they wanted to enjoy McDonald's through digital, delivery, drive-thru and dine-in. Should we see further changes in customer behavior, we are well-positioned to adapt while maintaining high standards for safety."

McDonald's is requiring face masks for all crew and customers in hot spot counties, regardless of vaccination status.

Nearly all U.S. McDonald's restaurants closed indoor dining over the last year, but in July, the company re-opened 70 percent of its dining rooms, with a plan of opening them all by Labor Day on September 6.

On Saturday, the U.S. reached a seven-day daily average of 100,000 COVID hospitalizations for the first time since the winter peak, before most Americans were eligible to be vaccinated. The previous record in mid-January had nearly 140,000 hospitalized with the disease daily.

Florida has the highest number of hospitalizations for any state, with 15,778 COVID patients in hospitals as of Monday. Texas and California have the second-highest number of hospitalizations, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 95 percent of intensive care beds are currently occupied in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

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File photo of the American fast food company, McDonalds logo outside one of its stores on November 13, 2020 in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Some McDonald’s outlets are preparing to close indoor seating areas or limit opening hours due to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. Nathan Stirk/Getty Images