Closed. | Photo Stephanie McGeary

With the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Humboldt increasing, a shelter-in-place order in effect and social distancing and rigorous hygiene routines becoming the new norm, life in Humboldt seems quite different than it did a few weeks ago.

Though restaurants are considered an essential service under the shelter-in-place order and are permitted to stay open for delivery and pick-up only, many have closed due to a drop in business or to help prevent spread of the virus.

The Outpost had a phone interview late last week with Morgan Huber, assistant manager at The Pub in Arcata’s Creamery District, who shared her experience of being laid off during the pandemic.

The conversation has been edited for grammar and clarification.

So when and why did the Pub decide to close?

This past Saturday was our last day open fully.  You know, this is the first year of business and they were doing great. But, in general, you’re not gonna make enough in the first year of business to really sustain yourself.  From my owners’ point of view, it’s not really worth it financially to stay open when they aren’t making a certain amount in sales per day.

Absolutely. So, you were open for a little bit just for delivery and pick up?

Yeah. We had to lay off the majority of our staff. So we were down to maybe two people in the back of house and two people in the front of house. Since I’ve been there for a long time, I got priority. I still had to take a cut in hours. I was full time before all this went down and then I got cut to part time and now I’m cut to nothing.

I know that we plan to open back up when this is all over and those who were laid off will obviously have their jobs when they come back. It’s been a rough time for the employees and the owners as well. I’m just glad I had a job for part of the time and that will have a job when this is all over.

Have you filed for unemployment?

I’ve tried. But the system’s pretty backed up right now. Yeah. I’m lucky enough to have other part-time job opportunities. I’m not going to not pay rent. So it’s a matter of just trying to find a hustle.

Sure. So, I also understand that you’re in quarantine because you had contact with somebody who was potentially exposed to the virus?

Yes. I was concerned because one of my good friends — I was helping with her home a little bit, doing yard work and whatnot and I was using her car for a little bit — it was confirmed that she was on a flight with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 case. So I’ve been in quarantine because I don’t want to pass it along to anybody. I’m sure it’d be fine if I got it — I’m younger. But I had been going to the Co-op. And, you know, you think about everybody touching the produce — another reason it’s super important for us to all stay inside.

I’m gonna see if there are any alternative options for me, any other options to get groceries delivered. I’ve had several other friends and neighbors offer to drop off groceries and there are other services available as well. There’s still several local businesses doing delivery. I know Wildflower is still delivering food. But at this point, I do have to be very critical of how I spend my money. I guess it’s a good thing the bars are closed! [Laughs.] Not that I would be there anyway.

Well, it sounds like you’re being extra cautious, which is good.

I take it very seriously. I used to work in a hospital, so I know just how easy it is to transmit something. They would make you attend seminars on handwashing. So, I was prepped for this.

And how is your friend?

She said she’s fine and that she doesn’t have any symptoms. But she understands that she could be a carrier. So she is isolating herself now with her husband and her baby. They’re taking it very seriously too. But people who take flights are definitely risk factors. 

So, how was it for you in the restaurant in the days leading up to closure? How did you see the COVID-19 response play out in the restaurant environment?

In the beginning I think business owners were a little flippant about it and they just sort of increased their hygiene routine. So, at our restaurant, we were wiping down surfaces every 30 minutes with Clorox wipes. Then no one was allowed to come in and we started doing curbside pickup.  When people would call in, I would get down on their car info. I would bag up their order — after a whole 20 seconds of washing my hands — and I would walk it out to their car.

At first not everybody was sure how to take it or how serious it was. But now with more cases confirmed and how small the community is — you know how often we are walking the same route as one another. Everybody’s been walking around and touching things. It’s already here.

Now I see that restaurant owners are taking it very seriously and employees are taking it really seriously because they are potentially putting themselves in a direct line of exposure.

Other than trying to find some ways to make income right now what have you been doing to kind of help alleviate the quarantine blues?

I have my dog. But it’s apparent that he’s getting annoyed with me giving him so much attention [laughs.] I also have a beautiful backyard where I can sunbathe and I taught myself how to make whiskey sours.

Is there anything else that you want to say? Any message you want to put out to the community?

That the isolation is temporary. And I really don’t know what else I can say, besides stay home!