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Diners in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, on Nov. 11. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Restaurants in several states — including Kentucky, Illinois and California — are staying open and defying restrictions, as states try to manage skyrocketing coronavirus cases and hospitalizations with more safety measures.

The big picture: Restaurant industry trade groups have been desperately lobbying for federal aid from a coronavirus stimulus package that has yet to see any traction in Congress.

What they're saying: “I asked what would happen if I keep on serving,” Andrew Cooperrider, owner of a Lexington, Kentucky, coffee shop, told the Lexington Herald Leader. He said the health department couldn't tell him what repercussions he would face.

  • “The worst that could happen is we close ... I go to jail for a bit,” Cooperrider said. “What am I facing now, locked up inside my house with losing my businesses. ... I have more to gain by resisting than I do to comply.”
  • “Back in January I was a millionaire. Now I’m on food stamps. ... I understand about us dying but I care about us living," he added.

In Carol Stream, Illinois, Mike Coughlin is keeping his Village Tavern and Grill open despite a statewide suspension of indoor dining, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • “You pay my bills, you pay my taxes, you pay my employees, and I’ll close,” Coughlin said, addressing Democrat Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “I’m not going to be the guy with a boarded-up building because I follow someone else’s science.”
  • “I was faced with a lose-lose situation,” Spiro Roumpas, co-owner of Ki’s Steak and Seafood in a Chicago suburb, told the WSJ. He is keeping his dining rooms open and says local authorities have not yet enforced the statewide ban.

In Los Angeles County last week, the California Restaurant Association lost its bid to block an outdoor dining ban from taking effect, per the Los Angeles Times.

The bottom line: A September study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that participants who tested positive for the coronavirus were about twice as likely as those who tested negative to have dined at restaurants in the two weeks before they got sick.

  • The study did not differentiate between outdoor and indoor dining options.

Go deeper

20 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.