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Restaurants Can Still Do This When an Employee Gets Coronavirus

While dining establishments have a pretty clear read on the precautions they must follow, there's still one gray area.
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Bars and restaurants that reopened as long as two months ago are beginning to shutter their doors once again as employees test positive for the virus. However, whether restaurants actually need to shutter their doors if an employee falls ill is surprisingly unclear.

According to Restaurant Business, many restaurants across the U.S. admit they are lacking clear guidance from health agencies on what to do when a staff member contracts coronavirus. The CDC states that, in most cases, restaurants and other businesses don't need to entirely shut down when a worker tests positive for COVID-19.

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On the contrary, what happens if that employee unknowingly spread the virus to some of their colleagues? Then, it's just a matter of days before the whole staff tests positive, potentially. Still, whether the establishment should completely shut down ultimately depends on a variety of factors, experts say.

For example, one expert told Restaurant Business that if preventive measures were taken seriously prior to the individual testing positive, then the rest of the staff, in theory, should be better off than those working in an establishment where restrictions were loosely enforced. Why? Because staff members would have already been maintaining their distance from one another and customers.

RELATED: 5 Horrifying Mistakes Servers Have Seen at Reopened Restaurants

"Does it mean you have to shut the whole restaurant? In some cases, perhaps," Dr. Peter Orris, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and director of the Occupational Health Services Institute told the magazine. "But if it's a dishwasher running the dishwashing machine, interacting only with people bringing dishes to them, that's an easier situation to control."

If an employee spent about 15 minutes (consecutively) with an infected colleague and was standing or sitting within six feet of them, the CDC recommends that person should then also stay at home and quarantine for 14 days starting from the last day they were exposed. Restaurants and bars alike should also do a deep cleaning of the facility after someone tests positive. The key is taking action immediately rather than tabling it—even if that just means shutting down shop for one day.

"The faster you act, probably the faster you can get back to normal functioning," Orris said to Restaurant Business.

Essentially, whether a restaurant—or any business for that matter—decides to close is largely up to the restaurant's discretion. To make sure you stay safe while dining in, consider reading 7 Precautions You Must Take When Dining Out with Friends.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more