McDonald’s prepares to close some dining rooms in COVID hotspots

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(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CHICAGO, Illinois – Some McDonald’s eateries may close their dining rooms again as the Delta variant drives up the number of infections in certain parts of the country.

The largest restaurant company in the world contacted its franchisees last week, advising them to close their dining rooms in counties where COVID cases exceed 250 per 100,000 people people on a rolling three-week average.

In a conference call with franchisees, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger said “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,” according to notes from the call that The Post obtained.

The company did not disclose how many restaurants have closed their indoor dining rooms as a result of the Delta variant. But Erlinger emphasized the seriousness of the situation during the call.

“The Delta variant is biting deeply into the country’s progress,” according to the transcript.

While the decision to close dining rooms is being handled on a local level in partnership with McDonald’s field offices, the company is requiring that all restaurant employees and customers in hot spots wear masks regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

For the most recent increase in cases, the company says it’s more prepared to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks than in the past.

“We have a much deeper sense of what actions make a difference for the safety of our restaurant teams and crew,” Erlinger said on the call.

The company had hoped to reopen 100 percent of its dining rooms by Labor Day. About 30 percent of them remained closed as of July, according to Reuters.

The company had closed all of its dining rooms in March 2020 and started to reopen some of them by May.

For the latest uptick in Delta cases, McDonald’s corporate has been tracking local data, including regulations and case counts, and offering guidance to franchisees when it thinks they should close their dining rooms. It’s not mandating the closures, a spokeswoman told The Post.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

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