According to experts, contact tracing can help keep restaurant outbreaks at bay, but only in places without widespread infections. “I like to think that because of the contact tracing and the quick quarantine of close contacts, we haven’t had major restaurant outbreaks,” said Melissa Lunt, director of nursing for the Graham County Health Department in Arizona. When workers at two restaurants in the area got sick, the health department moved quickly to quarantine them to prevent further spread of the community.
Testing is a problem of its own for workers. While many cities offer free trials, it can take days or even weeks for results to come back, leaving staff unemployed while waiting.
Of course, low-wage restaurant workers, especially part-time workers, may not have health insurance. Otherwise, layoffs could have jeopardized their ability to make payments for these plans.
In the meantime, some owners are doing everything possible to keep it running and keep people safe. There is a high cost and concern for this. Benjamin Goldberg, founder of Strategic Hospitality, a group that operates eight places in Nashville, has opened some places with indoor restaurants and closed others. In the meantime, he and his staff have become experts in public health. “We did research and learned from what places around the world are doing,” he said. “City and state advice were only the basis of our expectations.”
Without testing everyone who worked in or went into their restaurants – an impossibility – they took the temperature of every customer, worker, and salesperson before they were allowed to enter. Employees are regularly tested for the virus. All cutlery comes in a bag sealed with stickers, the menus are virtual, and the pens used to sign checks are cleaned up and placed in a sealed bag.
“We felt that if we could build that trust in the short term, it would pay off in the long run.”