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Kevin O’Leary of ‘Shark Tank’ blasts patchwork state Covid restrictions

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Kevin O’Leary on Monday tore up the patchwork approach to coronavirus restrictions in the US, stating that locale-to-locale variation puts a significant strain on business operators.

The “Shark Tank” investor, featured in CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” admitted that measures are needed to curb the spread of Covid-19. “My question is very simple: Who decides? Is it at the city level, at the state level, at the federal level? Tell me the rules so that I can make economic decisions on behalf of my employees.”

“There are no rules. They are not the same. It’s total chaos out there. It’s obvious that this is the situation and it’s totally unfair,” added O’Leary, whose anger is particularly directed towards Los Angeles County Concentrated in California, where public health officials closed the site late last month and ate at al fresco restaurants. He said he had investments in food service companies that were negatively affected by the order.

On Sunday, shortly before midnight, Southern California, which includes LA County, was put on a home stay order after ICU capacity in the area dropped below 15%. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s regional ordinance calls for retail store capacity to be limited to 20% and a ban on alfresco dining, with restaurants offering takeout and delivery only. The new restrictions also apply to the San Joaquin Valley.

The San Francisco Bay Area was closed on Sunday evening, and health officials said they didn’t want to wait for the intensive care unit capacity to get this bad.

“If we need a national policy on masks, go ahead,” said O’Leary. However, he said he objected to policies banning al fresco eating after companies spent tens of thousands of dollars buying heaters and creating other accommodations to serve food in parking lots or alleys.

“I don’t even say open it inside,” said O’Leary, who is referred to as Mr. Wonderful on “Shark Tank”. However, he questioned the reason why LA County’s local grocery operations must be suspended while they can continue elsewhere. “How can I be open in Miami on the same chain?” he said.

O’Leary, also co-founder and chairman of O’Shares ETFs, said he was frustrated having to lay off LA County employees for the third time during the pandemic.

Eating outdoors carries a lower risk of coronavirus transmission than eating indoors, according to public health experts. For example, on Monday, former Commissioner for Food and Drugs Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, told CNBC that he avoided eating in restaurants during the pandemic but did eat outside.

“In many cases, people who eat inside speak loudly, and here too they do not wear a mask. They are in a very small space,” said Gottlieb. Because of this, there is “no question” that eating indoors poses a higher risk for coronavirus transmission than shopping in a large store where customers and employees are wearing masks.

While Gottlieb Capitol Hill applauded the apparent progress on yet another major relief package from Covid, O’Leary believes the focus should be on giving money directly to employees rather than under the burden of business restrictions and shutdowns to the company.

The proposed $ 908 billion bipartisan coronavirus bill, released last week and undergoing definitive language enhancements, would provide around $ 300 of additional weekly unemployment benefits, but not another round of $ 1,200 checks direct to Americans include. The relief would come with a major year-end spending measure needed to avoid a federal government shutdown this weekend.

“These are the decisions we need to think about. This March PPP program was a blunt tool and a failure for me,” said O’Leary, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program. The compromise discharge proposal would also include the financing of additional PPP loans to be granted.

“Stop funding the companies and at that point pass it on to the actual employees,” O’Leary repeated, a position he has been campaigning for months.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to Shark Tank, which is co-hosted by Kevin O’Leary. Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of Pfizer, who started genetic testing -up Tempus and the biotech company Illumina. Gottlieb is also co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Panel.

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Robert Dunfee