U.S. Shatters Its File of New Coronavirus Infections as India’s Caseload Hits a Million

185 0
U.S. Cases Reach New Record

michael barbaro

Hello. It’s Michael. This week we visit people we met in the first few weeks of the pandemic, listen and hear what has happened to them since our initial discussions.

Today: Jasmine Lombrage, restaurant owner in Baton Rouge.

It's Thursday July 16th.

(Music) Michael Barbara

I am Michael Barbaro from the New York Times. This is "The Daily".

If the order to stay at home in Louisiana expires today, restaurants across the state can let customers back in at their discretion. This decision now lies with restaurant owners like Jasmine Lombrage.

It's Friday May 15th.

Jasmine Lombrage

Hello?

michael barbaro

Hello.

Jasmine Lombrage

Hello how are you?

michael barbaro

Oh good. You sound great right now.

Jasmine Lombrage

Wonderfully wonderful. Hello. I’m Jasmine Lombrage.

michael barbaro

Hello Jasmine. I’m Michael Barbaro.

Jasmine Lombrage

Hello, nice – nice to meet you like this.

michael barbaro

Very nice to meet you this way. Where exactly can I reach you?

Jasmine Lombrage

I'm in the Bullfish Bar Plus Kitchen here in Baton Rouge, La.

michael barbaro

This is your restaurant

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

How long have you been living in Baton Rouge?

Jasmine Lombrage

I personally, about 17 years. My husband has been here for over 20 years. And we have two girls, two beautiful girls, Gaby – she will be 11 next month – and we have our beautiful Angelle. It is nine.

michael barbaro

How did you and your husband get to know each other?

Jasmine Lombrage

(Laughs) It's an old love story. We met in school. I was in the dental hygiene school and he was in the cooking school. And he worked in this cafeteria. My friends said they have good food there and they wanted to go. So we went over there and he was a quiet guy in the corner doing his own thing. I said excuse me, what do you have here that is good and healthy that I can eat? And he looked up and said: Nothing is good enough for you.

michael barbaro

Oh dear.

Jasmine Lombrage

And then I turned and walked away and he said: But when you come back tomorrow I'll do something for you.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

Jasmine Lombrage

And I just smiled a little and said: No thanks. And I had a couple of friends who say: Yes, we'll be back tomorrow. So the next day he did something for me. He got roasted and my friends – I had one of my crazy friends. She said – I said I'm not going to eat. I don't know if this guy is some kind of psycho or crazy and he'll put something in my food. She says, "Well, I'm going to eat. If nothing happens to me in a few minutes, you can try." So that happened. And he came back and asked how was everything? I said it was good Then we started talking. Then – no, then he said I would be his wife and I said I'm sorry. It won't happen. You know, and he said, well, he's a praying man. He always gets his heart's desire.

michael barbaro

(Laughs)

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, 10 years later we got married.

michael barbaro

So when you – when you two met, you were a dental hygienist student. He trained as a cook.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

And how did you get into the food industry?

Jasmine Lombrage

When I was growing up, my mother used to cook for a lot of people. So it was always a passion. I also grew up cooking with my mother and family and aunts. We only – that was just something we did.

And then Angel, my husband, Chef Angel, my husband, you know, we – he was the Executive Corporate Chef who founded Voodoo BBQ & Grill, a restaurant here in the south. And he was known as a pitmaster. And that's how we founded Jazz City back then, Jazz City was a catering company. And we were – he said that's what I like to do. And we wanted to do something – we have two young children. We know that you can work hard for everyone, but if you want to leave that – creating something for your family, you have to create something so that it can be passed on and passed down through generations and possibly grow. And that is our goal to make it grow and prosper.

And we ended up here at Bullfish, and Bullfish was already there – it was a restaurant that previously belonged to someone else. And when we got here, we did it ourselves by bringing new menu items. And this is the only place where you can find authentic Caribbean and Mediterranean fusion cuisine in Louisiana. What he did, what the chef did, he took the fresh herbs we have in the Caribbean, and then he melted them into the wonderful spices we have here in Louisiana. And he – there is a mixture of jerk, fish and southern grilled prawns.

michael barbaro

Mm

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. And the paella – you know, chef makes a paella – you know, he uses scallops. And they infuse the lobster, which comes from Louisiana, with the andouille sausage, and then he puts the shrimp and the crab meat in it. And so it is just the other twist that he puts on all dishes. It's just magic in your mouth.

michael barbaro

Mm

Jasmine Lombrage

And I don't know if you heard the music in the background a little. We use a lot of Caribbean music from different parts of the Caribbean and play different music from here. The mood is just like that, I don't need a passport, but I can get out of here. Does it make sense?

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. It's funny that you keep calling your husband "cook". Are you referring to him like this?

Jasmine Lombrage

We keep it professional at work. At home, when we get in a car, it's "sweetheart". But when we're at work, we relate to each other – I call him a chef, and he would just say what he had to say to me, or, OK, yes, ma'am, and that would be it.

michael barbaro

Roger that.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

And when did you take over the restaurant?

Jasmine Lombrage

That was last year, 2019, May 22, 2019.

michael barbaro

OK. So just – about a year ago.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. And this restaurant, the Bullfish, is personal to us because our home is connected to the Bullfish.

michael barbaro

Huh.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. That's why this pandemic – I personally spent many nights without sleep, because I know that our home is connected to it. It's not that we have 5, 6, 7, 20 locations. Thats all we have. We have two children in our house. My daughter, my oldest, Gaby, is autistic. I don't know – I mean, I don't know what's going to happen, but right now she needs us to take care of her. As it grows, before we hand our home over to the Bullfish, home is part of the security blanket we had. If something happened, she would have it.

michael barbaro

Tell me what you mean when you say your home is connected to Bullfish. You mean physically or emotionally or what?

Jasmine Lombrage

Now, whenever you get a loan, you have to give some kind of guarantee, like a personal guarantee. And that's exactly what we did, you know. We made this leap of trust and decided that we would use 100 percent here to make it work. So we have to get the bullfish up and running.

michael barbaro

So if something happened to the restaurant, would it mean that you might lose your home?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

And it sounds like you want to pass this house on to your autistic daughter.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, well, our two girls, but at least we know her, we can be somewhere for her, if she has to be somewhere, and then we can have it for her. It's something I always talk about emotionally because –

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

Jasmine Lombrage

(Cry) I'm sorry.

michael barbaro

I understand.

Jasmine Lombrage

It is – you know, and she stands in front of me and looks at me now. And we want to do everything to make it work.

You know, we just have to get it going. When this pandemic started we were really scared because if we can't pay for everything and don't take our loan, we understand the ramifications, you know.

michael barbaro

Was there a moment when you felt like you really made it with this place, bought it, and started making it your own?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. We thought about a month before the pandemic, yes, that was a good choice. My husband and I usually go to church early in the morning and then we came here for brunch. And before we opened, people were waiting for us outside.

michael barbaro

Impressive.

Jasmine Lombrage

It was wonderful. And we thought OK, wow, that will really work. It really works. And wow honey, this is our baby and we will grow it and we will be able to pay the loan and we will be able to just blow this thing out of the park. And then the pandemic started. And yes.

michael barbaro

When did you first notice that the pandemic was affecting the restaurant?

Jasmine Lombrage

OK, early March – early March because it was February and Valentine's Day was good. In the beginning of March everything started to change and in March the governor closed the state. At that point, you lost employees who said they would not come out. I mean, you can't blame them. We also started delivering on the side of the road and we created social media posts and put up signs, handwritten signs with discounts to let people know that picking up at the side of the road is possible and only made different advertising signs.

michael barbaro

So you have to put signs in the windows or outside and tell people that we're still there. You just have to call.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes Yes Yes. And then, about the second week after the state closed, we'd be lucky if we had two people who were asking for a roadside pickup. And we would just sit here all day, 11 to 8, and no one would come over or call anyone. So I called the restaurant phone a couple of times to make sure the phone worked because it never rang. We were there for hours.

michael barbaro

So you called the main number of the restaurant on your cell phone to see if it worked.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. (Laughs)

michael barbaro

Impressive

Jasmine Lombrage

And, you know, I started turning to third-party vendors to see if I could sign in to them, like Uber Eats and Waitr, and DoorDash and ChowNow. And they charge – some of them charge between 25 and 35 percent.

michael barbaro

Per order?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, that's your food cost. Yes. In addition, we can no longer buy bulk goods because we have wasted so much food. We threw so much stuff away, and now we, chef and I, have to go to different mom and pop shops that are open and we have to buy items. Of course, you are now paying more money for them because you are no longer buying the same amount and shopping at a local retailer. You know, and then we have a bar here and we weren't – no one came out to drink, so it went away. So yes, the pandemic, you know, it was hard for us.

michael barbaro

Mm-hm. I'm so sorry.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

How much money do you earn with these delivery apps, these new order sources, as a percentage with a single customer?

Jasmine Lombrage

At the moment, you don't because we buy things not only from local dealers but also from smaller quantities – we buy things in smaller quantities so our profit margin is lower. So we're basically not doing anything. They keep the doors open but don't do anything about it.

michael barbaro

Can you give us an idea of ​​where your daughters were at that time? When was your school interrupted?

Jasmine Lombrage

Maybe March. Angelle, when is the school closed? March or April?

Angelle Lombrage

(FAINT) It was closed in March.

Jasmine Lombrage

OK, the school is closed in March.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

Jasmine Lombrage

I used to bring mine – I still bring my two girls with me so I can teach them at home because of school – they're not at school. So I use a corner of the restaurant and teach there for my girls. But it was a challenge. The change was not welcomed and was open to the girls, especially my oldest, Gaby.

michael barbaro

What do you think?

Jasmine Lombrage

You know, with autism, everything has to be – you have to have something – everything is planned and everything has a plan that you have to follow. And this whole pandemic just messed up for them in the beginning. She didn't sleep. She was more excited. And my youngest, Angelle, kept saying she wanted to go back to school, so I had to find other ways to help them. So –

michael barbaro

And Jasmine, I think I can hear your daughters in the background. Is that correct?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes you do.

michael barbaro

Do you think there was a point where your daughters picked up on what happened to you and your husband, but apart from the stress they are experiencing because they are out of school and socially distant, they understand that you and your husband are struggling with this business and financially?

Jasmine Lombrage

I think so. There is an incident. My daughter, my youngest, she – you know, she gets a bonus and someone gives her money or whatever. And she saved the money and one day wrote a note. And then she left a note on the bed, on my bed. I took a bath and came out and she had a message that mom, I know you and dad are working really hard and things are really hard. I saved some money. I hope that helps you pay for things.

michael barbaro

Oh wow

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. That was hard. That was hard.

michael barbaro

How old is this daughter who left you –

Jasmine Lombrage

Angelle was 8 when she did that. She just turned 9 in April. So she had a pandemic birthday.

michael barbaro

Can I ask how much she gave you?

Jasmine Lombrage

I think she was $ 57.

michael barbaro

Impressive.

And what did you do with it?

Jasmine Lombrage

I still saved it.

I still have it there. I'm not trying to use it. It was such a touching moment, and only to see that they recognize that children recognize more than you tell them. And to know that they are with me like almost every day, and –

michael barbaro

You see everything.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

How bad are things financially at the moment?

Jasmine Lombrage

Not anywhere near where we want to be. Not good at all. Not good at all. We have applied for many small business loans and are just waiting to get feedback.

michael barbaro

Were you able to cover all payments you owe the bank?

Jasmine Lombrage

I did not. I think finance is one of the things people don't like to talk about, but I couldn't meet many – I had to ask for discounts. So we'll see what happens.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

Do you think there is a situation where you can imagine using your youngest daughter's money, this $ 57?

Jasmine Lombrage

I don't want – I don't want because it's hers. Even though she gave it to me, it belongs to her. I don't want – I don't want.

michael barbaro

Correct.

Jasmine Lombrage

I –

I'm just afraid of it – I'm just afraid to even think of such a situation.

(Music) Michael Barbara

We'll be right back.

Jasmine, for listeners who don't know the rules in Louisiana, what was announced earlier this week?

Jasmine Lombrage

Well, restaurants – as of Friday, restaurants can be open for 25 percent of their capacity.

michael barbaro

So you can take up to 25 percent of the space that normally fits in the restaurant. How many people do you think is this?

Jasmine Lombrage

Well, we can comfortably accommodate about 90 people here. And so we can now do about 25 percent of it.

michael barbaro

So if you can only get 20 or so people in there, can you make money?

Jasmine Lombrage

I don't see how that will be, to be honest, because having 20 percent – 20 percent of the company’s employees is not enough to keep me going, and I don’t know how long it will take.

michael barbaro

Correct.

Jasmine Lombrage

So (sighs) it's hard. It is difficult to digest at the moment.

michael barbaro

But you decided to let people back in?

Jasmine Lombrage

Frankly, I personally, no. So it's still an open debate. After I'm done with this interview, we'll sit down and consider our options, the pros and cons, and see if we want to do this.

michael barbaro

Can I ask you what you see as disadvantages and advantages?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, the professionals – you know, we're going to generate 25 percent more sales than we do now. And then the disadvantages know that someone will – I fear, oh my god, someone will come out and they are carriers of Covid-19 and they are infecting someone else. So I have no way to control it.

michael barbaro

Have you heard from customers about their opinion if it's time to go back to the restaurant?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes I have. I had mixed reviews. We tend to ask customers whenever they pick up or if they are ready to reopen everything. This is usually the question we would ask. And I have the feeling that in my opinion I will get more no than yes.

michael barbaro

Mm

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

Those who told you, Jasmine, that they wanted to come out, what did they say is their reason for wanting to come out, come back and eat in a restaurant?

Jasmine Lombrage

You want to go out of the house. You know, sometimes it's just the fact that you can't do something that makes you do it.

michael barbaro

(Laughs) Yes. Yes, the forbidden fruit. Yes.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. My point, that's exactly it. Oh, you tell me I can't eat this? Ok I will. So yes, that's what I get.

michael barbaro

I wonder for you, if you didn't run a restaurant, would you go out and eat now? Would you go to a restaurant, sit down, order food?

Jasmine Lombrage

I would probably go out on a weekday because the days of the week are usually less busy because I have a child who has a weakened immune system. That's why I usually go out very carefully. I don't want to take anything home with her, that would be another reason why I personally won't go out. And if I had been without my daughter's situation, I would definitely have found the seat – ask to sit in the area that is far from everyone else.

michael barbaro

I mean, it's interesting to hear you say that you don't want to go to a restaurant unless it was particularly slow because of your daughter's health because you're talking about reopening a restaurant. So it's a pretty strange puzzle.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, but it's honest.

michael barbaro

I just want to make sure I understand which of your daughters is immunodeficient.

Jasmine Lombrage

Gaby is.

michael barbaro

Is that the daughter who is autistic?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, because she was a former premature baby. I broke when I was pregnant at 14 weeks and had many health problems. They said you know Gaby would never walk, talk, see or hear. She wasn't through – she has no viability and she would never make it out of the hospital alive, you know. We were told that we made a mistake for them. It coded and it was even spoken and it came back. And she had a trach before and was on a ventilator before. She had oxygen for the first time – almost the first four years of her life.

You know, she started talking late, went late and she had to go to therapy and she had a walker. She had many challenges to see where she is now and where she comes from. So I'm always careful, you know? A typical cold for you and me is just a cold, but you may get pneumonia or we may have lost it. She stopped breathing a few times and nothing –

I don't even know how to explain that.

michael barbaro

Mm Are you afraid of your daughter's health that you are basically in a situation that you are afraid of all the time because people may come to your restaurant and possibly do so? Make you sick and possibly make your daughter sick?

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. You know, I don't know what I would do if I brought something to my child. Therefore I am in a very difficult position as a business owner.

michael barbaro

That would be very difficult to live with. I understand.

Jasmine Lombrage

That would – yes. You know –

michael barbaro

I mean it sounds – it sounds like this –

Jasmine Lombrage

(Sighs)

michael barbaro

– that has to – that has to burden you when you make this decision.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes it is. It is. It is. It is personal. It's not like, oh, OK, I'm just going to open it and make the money. That is not the case for me. I have to be careful. I am responsible for them and I am also responsible for my customers to ensure that they have the best experience. And I'm also responsible for my team that comes to work. So –

michael barbaro

And you are also responsible for this house –

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes!

michael barbaro

– that is connected with it –

Jasmine Lombrage

Correct!

michael barbaro

– restaurant.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes.

michael barbaro

Yes.

Jasmine Lombrage

So my hands are tied. How yes. It – yes, I'm just – I'm just in a fix.

Yes, I'm in a tight spot right now. And say hello, Gaby.

gaby lombrage

Hello.

michael barbaro

Hello Gaby.

Jasmine Lombrage

Say hello. It's okay.

gaby lombrage

Hello.

michael barbaro

Oh, I want to see you on the video. Nice to meet you, Gaby.

Jasmine Lombrage

Can you see her? I do not know how that works.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. I can see her. Yes, she has a great sweater with a leopard print.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. Will you talk

gaby lombrage

Hello.

michael barbaro

Hello. Gaby waves.

gaby lombrage

How are you?

michael barbaro

I am fine. Your mother only told us about you.

She – she loves you.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes. (Laughs) Yes.

michael barbaro

She loves you – she loves you very much.

Jasmine Lombrage

I do. I love you, Gab.

gaby lombrage

I love you too.

Jasmine Lombrage

OK.

michael barbaro

Well that was – that was a nice gift.

Jasmine Lombrage

Yes, she went up to her. (Sigh) I'm sorry.

michael barbaro

Yes, just give me a second. Uff.

Jasmine Lombrage

I'm so sorry. I did not mean it like that –

michael barbaro

No, I –

Jasmine Lombrage

Hence the reason why I'm torn. For someone who was 1 pound, 3 ounces when she was born, she is like – she is like – I mean, she is beautiful. She is doing so well. And then that's so scary.

michael barbaro

Yes.

Jasmine Lombrage

This is so scary you know And then it's a tough decision. I – we don't open up to make customers come in, we put our house at higher risk. We open up and then something happens, then I endanger my child's life. I don't want to – I don't even want to be myself now.

michael barbaro

Yes.

I will be very excited – we will all be excited to see what decision you make. And I want you to know that we really enjoyed getting to know and talking to you, and that we are taking root for you and your family.

Jasmine Lombrage

Thank you. Many thanks. Thank you.

michael barbaro

Thank you very much and please do your best to your husband and the rest of your family.

Jasmine Lombrage

Thank you.

gaby lombrage

Bye.

Jasmine Lombrage

Gaby says goodbye.

michael barbaro

Bye, Gaby.

Jasmine Lombrage

Say goodbye.

gaby lombrage

Bye.

Jasmine Lombrage

OK thanks guys.

michael barbaro

Bye.

(Music)

Hours after we spoke to Jasmine, her husband and her staff decided to reopen the restaurant for indoor use. They then quickly changed their minds and delayed this service for health reasons. Since then, infections in Louisiana have more than doubled. As a result, the state has required everyone over the age of eight to wear a mask or face covering in public, close all bars, and limit indoor dining with a 50 percent capacity. However, the Bullfish Bar and Kitchen is still not open for indoor meals, but still offers outdoor and take-out service.

After the episode aired, “daily” listeners began to reach Jasmine with financial support, prayers, and meal orders.

Jasmine Lombrage

(Cry) I mean the number of calls. I would never forget the people who called from around the world to let us know that they pray for us, are with us and support us. And I'm just so happy that humanity is – just so many good people in this world. I'm just grateful.

And I pray that if we as humans do our part to protect ourselves and each other so that we can really nip this virus, the numbers will decrease. And bad things happen. And I have no control over it. You have no control over it. But we have control over what we do, each person individually. And showing me, my family, and others that it's difficult doesn't mean impossible. You cannot imagine how grateful and grateful I am. I'm just – oh my god. My family, we are so thankful.

michael barbaro

Jasmine's daughter Gaby turned 11 a few weeks ago, an event that the family celebrated with a socially distant zoom party.

We'll be right back.

Here's what you need to know today: The Times reports that coronavirus infections are increasing in 41 different states and that conditions across the country are similar to the darkest days of the March pandemic. On Tuesday, California and Texas set new daily records with more than 10,000 new infections each. More than 130 people died in both Texas and Florida, a record for both. And on Wednesday in Oklahoma –

Kevin Stitt

It just kind of feels painful, as if the beginning of a little cold is what it feels like right now. But really, I'm fine.

michael barbaro

The governor, Kevin Stitt, said he tested positive for the virus and was the first governor in the country to report an infection.

Kevin Stitt

So you never know where it is. It is a virus in the United States. It is in Oklahoma. And that's why it's the new normal.

michael barbaro

Stitt said he was unsure how he got the virus. But he has attended several public events, often without a mask, including a rally for President Trump that took place in Tulsa a few weeks ago.

That was & # 39; s for "The Daily". I’m Michael Barbaro. Until tomorrow.

Leave a Reply