Ruben Ortiz admitted he was concerned the first time he picked up takeout from the New Haven restaurant where he worked until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state in mid-March. “I walked in and thought, I can’t do this,” the New Haven resident said of his concerns about transmission of the virus that has killed more than 4,400 residents statewide. “I was inside, and it was making me uncomfortable.”
Like millions of employees throughout the country, particularly those working low-wage restaurant, hospitality, retail or cleaning jobs, Ortiz has no idea what the future will bring. He was out of work for 13 weeks. Then the Cast Iron Chop House began to see enough customers to schedule four waiters a night, compared with the eight to 10 who worked nightly before the pandemic.