McDonald's will conduct coronavirus safety reviews of its restaurants in the next six weeks as health experts worry that Covid fatigue is contributing to the record high number of new cases in the U.S.
The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases surpassed 131,400 on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. According to a CNBC analysis, the rate of new daily infections is up 32% compared with the same time last week.
The surge in infections has prompted some states and municipalities to announce harsher restrictions ahead of the holiday season. New York state, for example, has implemented a nightly curfew of 10 p.m. for indoor and outdoor dining. Some places, like McDonald's hometown Chicago, have banned indoor dining once again.
McDonald's will conduct one visit per franchisee, according to an internal note to U.S. operators viewed by CNBC. The assessments were created in collaboration with franchisee leadership. McDonald's U.S. chief field officer Charlie Strong, National Franchisee Leadership Alliance Chair Mark Salebra and franchisee Tracy Johnstone wrote the letter.
The inspections will assess how a franchisee is executing the "top five operating minimums." Once completed, the franchisees are expected to make sure the rest of their locations also follow the best practices. The goal is to complete all of the visits by Dec. 31.
Strong, Salebra and Johnstone also emphasized the importance of using equipment to enable contactless pay and to make social distancing possible in the kitchens.
"We'll end by reminding the System that our actions are being watched very closely by consumers, crew, and other external stakeholders," the letter said.
The fast-food giant has faced several lawsuits alleging that the company's franchisees failed to protect them adequately from contracting the virus. In one case, a Chicago judge found that McDonald's was not negligent but needed to train its workers better on social distancing and properly wearing masks.
McDonald's U.S. President Joe Erlinger wrote in a Medium post published Friday that the chain will convene several roundtables to discuss its Covid-19 prevention practices with others in the industry.
"This is an area where we don't see anyone as a competitor; the more that an organization of our scope and scale can share what we've learned, the more we can help make everyone safer," he said.
Erlinger also said that the rate of infection in McDonald's restaurants is lower than that of the general U.S. population, but the company is aiming to eliminate new cases. He asked employees to report any suspected cases through the chain's Covid hotline.
"After all, McDonald's success — just like the success of Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, or any other U.S.-based business — depends on all of us getting back to some version of normal as quickly as possible," he wrote.
Shares of McDonald's were nearly flat in afternoon trading Friday. The stock, which has a market value of $164 billion, has risen 7% this year.