The Transylvania Times -

Some Restaurants Closing Temporarily Because Of COVID-19 – Transylvania County, NC


Last updated 8/19/2020 at 3:17pm

Five Transylvania County restaurants have been linked to COVID-19 diagnoses, according to Transylvania Public Health (TPH) public information officer Tara Rybka.

Falls Landing, Marco Trattoria and Jets Pizza have publicly announced they closed due to COVID-19, but TPH will not release the names of the other two restaurants without their consent, Rybka said.

Rybka said that of the restaurants that contacted TPH, no restaurant workers with customer-facing jobs have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and Rybka said the health department has not ordered any county restaurants to close.

“The restaurants that we have worked with, in general, are places that have not had their employees…exposing the public,” she said. “We don’t think that the public has been exposed to the person who has tested positive, so we don’t need to share that information. In order to share that information we have to have a compelling public interest and in these cases we don’t.”

In a public Facebook statement on Aug. 13, Marco Trattoria wrote, “For transparency, we feel it important to announce that on Wednesday evening, Aug. 12, one of our kitchen staff was diagnosed with COVID. This employee was involved with food preparation but not in direct contact with our patrons. While none of our other staff are symptomatic, our priority right now is the safety and well being of our customers and employees. All staff is currently undergoing testing. Therefore, we will remain closed through this weekend with plans to reopen Monday night, Aug 17.”

The restaurant has since posted that it plans to reopen Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Falls Landing also published Facebook statements announcing its COVID-19-related closure. The restaurant wrote that it plans to stay closed until Sept. 2, but that as of Aug. 18 no employees had tested positive for the virus. However, the post stated that three staff members at the restaurant were under quarantine orders, as members of their family have tested positive.

The post stated, “We are not comfortable with just shifting staff and continuing service. We will not open until all staff tests negative, and all quarantines have been fulfilled. We will remain closed for now, with a plan to reopen Sept. 2. While these measures may seem extreme, we feel it’s important to continue to hold the line on this virus and be a part of the solution, and not part of the spread.”

Jets Pizza posted a sign on their door stating, “As of Aug. 14, 2020, Jets Pizza will be closed to the public until further notice due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. Staff will remain present in the store to thoroughly clean and sanitize the store. Thank you for your understanding.”

Rybka said that not all of the restaurants that have been tied to a case have closed and not all restaurants that have closed have been tied to a case. TPH consults with restaurants on COVID-19 advice on a case-by-case basis.

“These are not necessarily places where the folks got exposed at the restaurant,” she said. “We haven’t seen any instances that we’re aware of where the employees who tested positive were ones that were working with the public. Based on the information that we’re getting from the restaurants, what’s happened so far, and that could change in the next minute, but, so far, all the folks that we’re aware of who have tested positive, and we’ve done a case investigation on them, they have not been folks who had direct contact with customers.

“And so, at this point, there’s no more risk from eating at that restaurant than there would be in any other public interaction. It would be different if we had a server walking around without their face covered, who actually had interaction with customers. Then we may need to put out information to the general public.

“Saying, ‘If you ate at this restaurant between this date and this date we encourage you to get tested, you may have been exposed,’ that hasn’t happened yet. I hope it doesn’t happen.”

As of Monday, Rybka said 13, or 7 percent, of Transylvania County resident COVID-19 cases have occurred through workplace exposure. That includes all workplaces, not just restaurants, and some of the workplaces were out of county.

In instances of workplace exposure, TPH environmental health staff will work with the business owner and talk them through next steps.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate at home for at least 10 days, according to Rybka.

The person who tested positive can only return to work or other activities when it’s been at least 10 days since their symptoms started, or they test negative and have gone at least 24 hours without fever or other symptoms.

TPH will then conduct a case investigation and find any “close contacts” of the initial employee who tested positive.

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of the positive case for 15 minutes or more. Close contacts are required to quarantine for 14 days.

Other employees who may have had contact with the positive case, but aren’t considered a close contact are not required to quarantine, but are asked to closely monitor any change in health symptoms.


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