This story has been updated on Aug. 15 with a statement from the company.
A pair of Winnipeg restaurants are changing their tone after previously asking anyone outside Manitoba or from the city of Brandon to present a negative COVID-19 test in order to receive dine-in service.
Both Pizzeria Gusto on Academy Road and The Merchant Kitchen on Donald Street posted their new rules on social media Friday.
The restaurants each said they would be checking identification at the door, and anyone from outside the province or the city of Brandon, with the exception of Lake of the Woods and the Kenora, Ont., area, would need to show the results of a negative test for the virus to get in.
“We would love to have each and every one of you in, but the safety of our staff and our guests is our top priority,” read the social media posts from both restaurants, which share the same ownership, on Friday.
The move came as 40 new cases of COVID-19 were identified across the province Friday, including 10 in Winnipeg.
Health officials said there’s evidence of community transmission in both Winnipeg and Brandon, where an outbreak had left the city with a cluster of 90 active cases as of Friday morning.
Several businesses in Brandon have made the decision to temporarily shut their doors after employees tested positive for COVID-19, something the Moxie’s restaurant on Kenaston Boulevard in Winnipeg did Friday after reporting a team member had fallen ill.
A notice posted to the Winnipeg restaurant’s door said the employee last worked Aug. 6 and likely contracted the virus outside of work.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily closed to do an additional disinfection and to provide our team time to get tested should they choose,” the notice reads.
“Our number one priority is the health and well-being of our team and guests. We want to do everything possible to keep everyone safe and continued confidence in us.”
At a media briefing Friday, Manitoba’s chief public officer of health, Dr. Brent Roussin, said public health wasn’t involved in the decision made by Moxie’s to temporarily close. While he couldn’t speak directly to the case, he said it’s important employees and customers stay home when feeling sick.
“The more people we come in contact with, the more careful we have to be about being at work or school, if symptomatic,” he said.
As for the decision by Pizzeria Gusto and The Merchant Kitchen to ask to see negative tests results at the door, Roussin said the idea wasn’t likely to make anyone in the restaurants much safer.
“Remember, a negative COVID test in an asymptomatic person has very low value,” he said. “A negative COVID test that I received the result of today means that two to three days ago I was negative — it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m negative today if I’m asymptomatic.
“What I would suggest is the fundamentals — screening, ensuring that no patrons are symptomatic, that no patrons should be self-isolating under current orders, hand sanitation, and physical distancing. Those are much more important.”
On Aug. 15, company president Bobby Mottola sent Global News the following statement:
“The messaging posted to our Instagram accounts yesterday (Friday) was a result of miscommunication and does not reflect our policies. We will not be asking for ID or a negative COVID-19 test. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.
“In response to the increase in positive COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, we have made the decision to update our operating policies and procedures to ensure the safest possible environment for our community, staff and guests.
“In addition to the travel and health guidelines set out by the province of Manitoba, if you have recently travelled from any area within Canada experiencing a high increase in COVID-19 cases, we kindly ask that you follow the recommendations and protocols set forth by both the provincial and federal government before joining us for in-house dining.
“We would still be happy to serve you through our no contact delivery and curbside pickup options!”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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