As state issues new rules for COVID-19, local restaurants report outbreaks among staff
Knight’s Steakhouse locations on Dexter Avenue and East Liberty Street reopened Tuesday after closing on Friday, Oct. 24 because employees had contracted the novel coronavirus. The employees in question worked during dinnertime on Monday, Oct. 19; Tuesday, Oct. 20 and Wednesday, Oct. 21 and were asymptomatic at the time.
While Knight’s initially said on Facebook that they would not be able to reopen until Wednesday, in a more recent statement on their Facebook page, management said they had decided to reopen on Tuesday.
“We are excited to announce that we are safely able to open tomorrow, Tuesday, October 27th at 3pm!” the statement reads. “We have been working diligently with the Washtenaw Health Department and we have been given the green light to open!”
Because staff who had close contact with the infected employees are still in quarantine, Knight’s will only be open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Thursday, and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant staff says that next week they hope to return to normal business hours.
On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended its epidemic order and announced that restaurants and bars can no longer seat more than six people at a single table. Because customers remove their masks when dining indoors or drinking at a bar, these spaces present an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, the order says. In the past few weeks, COVID-19 cases across Michigan have skyrocketed with a record 3,338 cases diagnosed on Oct. 24.
Lindsay Kendrick, the human resources director at Knight’s, said restaurant management had both locations cleaned and all employees tested.
“Washtenaw County Health department only requires you to be closed for 24 hours to clean the building but we chose to stay closed longer and made all employees get tested which is not required,” Kendrick wrote in an email to The Daily.
Additionally, Kendrick said the restaurant was able to open earlier than expected because enough employees tested negative for the virus.
“We were luckily able to open only 3 days later once we had enough negative test results to open for dinner,” Kendrick said. “Positive employees are not working at this time and anyone that was in close proximity to these people are quarantining.”
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, communications and health promotion administrator at the Washtenaw County Health Department, said it is not completely necessary for businesses to close down for extended periods of time after employees test positive since the biggest risk of COVID-19 transmission is through person-to-person contact.
“In most cases, we as a health department, are not ordering places to close and that's because ... normally by the time we find out about a case, it’s usually not the same business day,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “Testing takes several days so routine cleaning should have already happened and there shouldn’t necessarily be a concern about the facility or exposure in the facility.”
Ringler-Cerniglia added that while the Health Department does not comment on specific situations, they have not stopped Knight’s from reopening and as far as she knows, they are in full cooperation with the county.
Knight’s said they have greatly appreciated all the support they’ve gotten from their customers since they had to close.
“Please come in and see us or order curbside service!” the post on their Facebook page reads. “We need your support more than ever right now! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for all the love and support! Our community is the best.”
Knight’s is not the only Ann Arbor restaurant that has dealt with cases among employees recently. Fast casual eatery Frita Batidos posted on Facebook Thursday that they would close for a few days after one of their employees contracted COVID-19.
“We have recently learned that one of our beloved Frita Staff members has tested positive for Covid 19,” the post reads. “We have been working closely with the health department to make sure that we follow every guideline. All staff members wear masks whenever working so exposure would have been limited, but we are erring on the side of caution with each decision we make. We will be closing for a number of days to do a deep cleaning and sanitizing and will re-open only with staff members who have not had exposure and/or who have tested negative after proper quarantining.”
LSA sophomore Brittany Hull-Dennis, who visited Frita Batidos two and a half weeks ago, said she would still go back to eat at a restaurant where employees had tested positive as long as the restaurant had taken proper precautions.
“I feel like if they’re consistently testing employees and shutting down when they do see that an employee is positive, I think that shows that they’re not going to be functioning when they know that an employee has it so therefore I don’t think I would mind going back,” Hull-Dennis said.
Daily Staff Reporter Carter Howe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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