At least five Edmonton restaurants have made the decision to temporarily close because of COVID-19.
Greta Bar in downtown Edmonton has a sign posted on the door, saying on June 18 it was made aware of a regular customer — not an employee — who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The letter said the person was in the restaurant four days prior, interacting with staff at a table.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and out of respect and caring for all those in our society… susceptible to the virus, we have decided to temporarily close the downtown Edmonton location,” the notice read.
Greta Bar president Chris Decock, spoke on630 CHED’s The Ryan Jespersen Show Monday morning and said the customer is a regular who is friends with the staff.
“We had two or three staff members that, after their shift, ended up sitting with said customer for a prolonged period of time — and because of that exposure between the staff members and the guest, we didn’t know what transmission could happen.”
As soon as they learned of the customer’s positive test result, Decock said they made the decision not to open the bar.
“Without certainty of our staff and how many other different staff they interacted with, it seemed pretty precarious to open up. So we said before we do, let’s find out more information, let’s go and get all these staff members tested.”
Decock said Greta Bar will continue to react this way, and not second guess the decision to close should it learn of another case of COVID-19.
“When in doubt, we will close down, ensure that we have safety and then reopen,” he said.
“Do I foresee us potentially closing down again the future? I do. Until we can get a vaccine or a better understanding of exactly how the virus is working, we will always err on the side of safety for our staff and guests.
“Right at the front end we said no matter what happens, our guiding principle is going to be one of safety.”
Later Monday morning, Decock confirmed one staff member who was in contact with the customer has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Decock said the bar has been working closely with Alberta Health Services. Greta Bar is advising any guests who visited the bar on June 14 to get tested as well.
MKT — just off Whyte Avenue — is also closed temporarily. There’s a notice in front of that restaurant which says a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.
“…this employee is and remains asymptomatic, they are self-isolating at home…,” the letter reads.
The notice at MKT said during the self-imposed closure, all employees are being asked to get tested and the entire premises will be disinfected.
“At this time, no other team members have tested positive or have active symptoms,” the notice said.
It’s not clear when either restaurant will reopen.
Late Sunday evening, The Pint confirmed its downtown location was also closed voluntarily.
According to a post on Instagram, on Saturday evening The Pint discovered a team member had tested positive for COVID-19. The post said the person was not showing symptoms.
The company said on Sunday morning a second employee’s results came back positive. That person is also not showing symptoms.
“These individuals last worked June 13, and will not return to work until AHS has determined they are safe to do so,” the post said.
Staff at the location will be tested before they return to work.
“No matter the diligence, we implore ourselves and everyone to stay vigilant and party with some conscience and distance, and keep each other safe while enjoying the summer,” the post continued.
On June 17, Round 2 — which is located on Gateway Boulevard — posted on its Facebook page that a person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus came into the restaurant on June 12.
“While none of our staff have tested positive, our whole staff will be re-testing this weekend as a precaution,” the post read.
“Although the AHS said that we are cleared to open, we have decided to temporarily close until all our staff receive the new test results. The safety of our staff and customers are our priority, and don’t want to take any risks. We advise everyone to get tested as well, even if you are asymptomatic. Thank you for understanding and stay safe.”
Decock applauded the other restaurants for taking the steps to voluntarily close down to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers.
“I think as an overall industry, I’m very proud of the precautionary steps and the quick response to this and the open transparency,” he said. “The court of public opinion can be scary sometimes and really seeing the industry trying to do the right thing through these difficult times, I’m happy to call those people colleagues. We will get through this.”‘
Earls Tin Palace
Earls Edmonton Tin Palace on Jasper Avenue downtown is also closed until next week after an employee tested positive.
A statement from the company Monday evening said an employee had passed their mandatory temperature check upon arrival for his shift; however, when he began feeling unwell he was immediately sent home.
“During his short time on shift, he had not been in contact with guests and was wearing the required PPE. Alberta Health Services have confirmed that risk to others is considered low,” the statement said.
The restaurant was closed on Saturday to allow for a deep clean. Earls said it has been given the green light to reopen immediately, however out of an abundance of caution and following feedback from employees, will now remain closed until 11:30 a.m. on June 30.
“This will allow any team member desiring to be tested the time to do so, and receive results before returning to work.”
Alberta Health ‘not aware of any outbreaks’
In a statement, Alberta Health said it is aware of the reports that several restaurants have decided to temporarily close, but added Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services have not required any of the restaurants to close.
“We are not aware of any outbreaks at those locations,” Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said.
“As we move forward, we will continue to see new cases in people employed in all sectors, including the food industry. In every case, AHS immediately takes action.”
McMillan said health officials conduct contact tracing and anyone at risk of exposure is isolated and tested. AHS also works with employers and confirmed cases to determine the source of exposure and provide advice on infection prevention and control measures, such as enhanced cleaning, McMillan explained.
“Closure of a facility would only be recommended if needed to protect the public’s health and prevent future spread,” he said.
McMillan added Alberta Health is not currently seeing “patterns of spread linked to casual contact or public places.”
Locations of outbreaks in acute-care and continuing-care facilities are reported publicly by Alberta Health when there are two or more cases, indicating that a transmission within the facility has occurred.
Outbreaks at other facilities or in the community are reported publicly by Alberta Health when there are five or more cases.
On Tuesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health stressed that there are no known outbreaks at these locations, and that under the public health guidance provided by the government, businesses are required to have procedures in place for “rapid response” if staff members or patrons develop symptoms of COVID-19.
“I know that cafes, restaurants and pubs play a significant role in our society and that this news was concerning for some Albertans. It is an important reminder that the virus is still here,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
As Alberta moves forward in the pandemic, Hinshaw said residents will continue to see cases in all sectors, including the food service industry.
“It’s important to take every case seriously but also to remember that one case does not automatically require a business to close for public health reasons,” she said. “It also does not mean that anyone who visited the same establishment is automatically at risk.
“Determining who is at risk is something that our contact-tracing teams closely assess based on when the individual became symptomatic and two days prior to that point.”
Hinshaw stressed that it is OK for businesses to temporarily close for operational reasons, to clean their establishment or to enhance protections.
“This is not a sign they are tainted or dangerous. It’s the opposite. It’s a sign that they care about their patrons and they’re taking the health of their customers and their employees seriously,” she said.
“We need to foster an environment where people are supported to do the right thing, addressing cases as they come and reaching out for guidance.
“At the same time, the closure of these restaurants serves as an important reminder that we have developed detailed public health guidance for a reason. The sun may be out but you can still catch COVID-19 in any restaurant, business, park or building in Alberta if precautions are not followed.
“There are no completely risk-free options. I do not say that to alarm anyone but to stress that we all need to follow the guidance to the best of our ability.”
–With files from Allison Bench and Breanna Karstens-Smith, Global NewsView link »