Texas was one of the first states to grow bored with COVID-19 and start reopening businesses. Its coronavirus cases are continuing to climb and are likely to get worse. We're not being Debbie Downers here — just reporting the grim facts. Aside from the maskless morons crowding public parks, some Texas businesses are also operating without any regard for public safety. The Hillstone Restaurant Group has refused to allow its employees to wear masks, despite CDC guidelines that recommend doing so in public. There's no medically based exception if you're serving someone firehouse chili.

Emily Owen, the general manager of the Houston's in Dallas, confirmed this bonehead policy over the phone with the Preston Hollow People.

"It is true. We're not allowing masks."

This is almost too much stupid to digest. I know it's Hillstone's corporate policy not some random Emily's, but she's the one who has to tell her staff to go forth and multiply COVID-19. She also had to defend her company's murder policy to the press.

"We stand behind our decision. Thank you for your curiosity, but we stand behind this, and we're doing the best we know."

NARRATOR: This is not the best they know.

According to an unpublished analysis of COVID-19 cases in China, the virus is most commonly transmitted through indoor environments. This includes cinemas, shops, and, yes, restaurants. A face mask can reduce the viral spread whenever someone coughs, breathes, and speaks.


Some Dallas Restaurant Workers Told They Cannot Wear Face Coverings At Work www.youtube.com

From the BBC:

One recent study showed that we spray thousands of droplets invisible to the naked eye into the air just by uttering the words "stay healthy".

Once out of our mouths, many of the larger droplets will quickly settle onto nearby surfaces while smaller ones remain suspended in the air for hours, where they can be breathed in.

Although Dallas County health officials “strongly encourage" wearing face masks, Gov. Greg Abbott won't mandate their use. He just can't bring himself to regulate a Texan's face like it's a woman's womb. Hillstone's website claims that “current orders do not require our staff or guests to wear face masks," and this demonstrates how corporations rarely do the right thing unless forced.

The state guidance recommends face masks for workers if they can't maintain six feet of physical distance, and an anonymous employee told the Dallas Observer that this was "impossible to maintain" even with a skeleton crew. But don't worry, the Dallas Houston's still maintains its strict dress code.

We consider tank tops, flip flops, and team athletic attire too casual for our restaurant. We ask that hats be worn in the traditional manner.

Yeah, don't come in here with your bare feet hanging out and your hat turned backward like in those rap videos that scare us! Dress respectfully while our staff sprays you with coronavirus. This isn't safe for patrons, but they can more freely choose to eat cheeseburgers elsewhere. Hillstone grotesquely threatens to leave employees off the schedule — but not fire them, which would make them eligible for unemployment benefits — if they cover their faces with lifesaving flair.

Office Space (5/5) Movie CLIP - Joanna Quits With Flair (1999) HD www.youtube.com

It seems like Hillstone's corporate strategy is to pretend COVID-19 does not exist or has greatly altered our lives. Employees are also forbidden from wearing gloves unless they were already required by the health code. This is obscene. Hillstone is too cheap to provide employees with personal protective equipment and too contemptible to let them use their own.

"We are scared," one employee told [Preston Hollow People]. "Please don't use my name, I have to have a job. We just wanted people in the community who have dined with us a lot to know we are not safe. It's not safe for anyone. We should at least been given a choice.

"We had a peak day in Dallas on Thursday. This is scary."

Employees who are uncomfortable with this policy are removed from the schedule, but it's classified as a “voluntary refusal to work," which would deny them the unemployment benefits that scum like Lindsey Graham believe are too generous.

As the economy reopens, it looks like we'll have to fight like Norma Rae against unsafe working conditions. The Hillstone Restaurant group is California-based, so maybe we can have our BFF Gov. Gavin Newsom yell at them until they start treating their staff like people.

[Preston Hollow People / Dallas Observer]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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