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Waffle House Code Red: Breakfast Chain Shutting Down Due to Coronavirus

The national breakfast chain lauded for staying open during disasters, is starting to shut it down.

Need to know how serious the coronavirus pandemic is? Waffle Houses are starting to close around the country.

The yellow-roofed Southern breakfast restaurant icon Waffle House has forever seemed impervious to disaster and has become a real indicator of, well, how bad things are getting.  There is really something called the "Waffle House Index" reportedly coined by FEMA employee Craig Fugate, who famously told the Wall Street Journal it's a good way to judge just how bad a disaster is.

"If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it's yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red," Fugate famously explained in 2012. "Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it's rare for the index to hit red."

But in a post published on their Facebook page, the national breakfast food chain known for their persistence in the face of disasters announced that they were starting to close down a significant number of locations due to coronavirus.

With the hashtag #WaffleHouseIndexRed, the post featured a map that showed 365 Waffle House locations closed, with 1,627 remaining open.

With the coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout most of the nation, and many states starting to follow the "stay at home" orders in California, Washington in New York, it's very likely that many more, if not all of these remaining Waffle House eateries will eventually and temporarily shut down.

Waffle House is a reliable go-to dining establishment as any other, especially in Southern states. And until recently, the iconic eater had not been immune to the ill effects of COVID-19. Waffle House employee Joey Park tested positive for coronavirus on March 9th and was sent to an Atlanta area quarantine in a Georgia state campground. Shortly after, however, Park was released and eager to go back to work.

Atlanta-area local news outlet CBS46 reports:

"CBS46 first spoke with Camp when he went into isolation and after being the first and only Georgian with coronavirus.

'The last three days I've been symptom-free,' Camp said, on the phone.

>The Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement to CBS46 that Camp was released without retesting because he has been asymptomatic for a full week, and is now considered cured.

The statement continued to say that is the new CDC guidance being followed by states.

'I'm ready to get back to work and get back in the community," Camp said.  "The only reason I'm still dragging is because I've been on my back the last week and a half.'"

Waffle House had stayed open nationwide despite some forced closings in states dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Last week the chain released a statement, however, about how they are preparing for coronavirus moving forward. The statement reads:

"Our first priority has always been and will continue to be our Associates and our Customers. We want to share with you some of the steps we are taking to support that mission. We have strong relationships with the CDC and the local health departments and are following their guidance."

According to Dothan, Alabama outlet WDHN: "The statement continues with ensuring customers that the restaurants will continue to emphasize their current protocols of frequent handwashing, standard food safety protocols and not allowing our Associates to work when they are sick."


Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.