COVID-19 Surge, Staff Shortages Plague Businesses Across the Valley

Kamari Esquerra

America is calling out sick.

“Staff that’s already here is already working really hard and they’re getting tired. It’s a bummer because it’s the start of the season,” said Roland Cooks, Owner of ROC’s Firehouse Grille. 

Across the valley and around the country, businesses are temporarily closing or adjusting their hours to accommodate staffing shortages due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Just recently we had to close because we didn’t have enough staffing to open for one day,” said Cooks. 

From local restaurants to popular food chains, the food service industry is taking a hit once again. This week, the only Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs temporarily shut their doors, and others around the valley are closing early. These closures mean a few days of customers going without their morning cup of joe, but for businesses, it’s the difference between making rent and payroll – or not.

“Just because your business slows down, your rent is still (due), you still have to pay insurance, all the overhead, you’re still paying electricity whether you’re open or not,” said Cooks. “Even missing one day puts a huge impact on the restaurant business, and the margin for the restaurant business is not what people think. One day hurts a lot.”

As if local businesses weren’t hit hard enough at the start of the pandemic in 2020, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases just shows how some businesses are still trying to recover nearly two years later.

“From the beginning we haven’t been able to open 7 days a week as we have for the past 20 years,” said Cooks. “We can only open 6 days a week because we don’t have enough stuff to open the full 7 days.”

“It’s very frustrating for small business owners because they’re trying to make a go at it and they’re already under a lot of demands,” said economist JohnPaul Valdez. “Just as demands are increasing, they can’t really get their staff to show up or add to their staff.”

Business owners are asking for grace and patience from the community as they navigate the ever-changing effects of COVID-19, and what that means for their businesses. 

“Be nice. (Everybody is working really hard), said Cooks. “My staff is working their butt off, what little staff I do have.” 

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