Restaurants with positive cases closing by choice; closings not mandated by health departments

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Restaurants in Central Illinois are reeling from the spread of COVID-19 and some local restaurant owners are making the decision to close down on their own as staff members test positive for the virus.

Officials with local health departments said they aren’t forcing businesses to shut down when there are positive virus tests and that many businesses are doing so voluntarily.

As WMBD reported yesterday, several area restaurants are currently closed due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. One restaurant was Double-A’s in Peoria. It’s owner Aaron Smith said he did so as a precaution.

“My decision was really based on the fact we need to take some time to understand what our options and requirements were,” Smith said.

According to the current health guidelines, restaurants aren’t being made to close if there’s a confirmed case among staff, but they do have to report it to local health departments. Peoria City/County Health Department Public Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson said they do this so they can contact trace and mitigate the spread.

“As long as that trust and communication happens we don’t necessarily do mass releases of information,” Hendrickson said.

This includes all restaurants whether they are locally owned or part of a national chain. Hendrickson said the health department has not forced any establishments to closed down and will not unless it becomes a bigger issue.

“The only time where we’ve seen the health department become more assertive is when we see an uncontrolled outbreak at a location,” Hendrickson said.

Restaurant owners are closing on their own accord and Smith said when he found out about a server’s positive result, he took to Facebook to give customers a heads up.

“It’s totally up to whoever is in charge and my decision is to be transparent with our guests because I’m a local owner,” Smith said.

Hendrickson said she applauds restaurants that decide to close and said when there is a positive case, businesses have been cooperating.

“We do ask that they understand the person’s scope and where they’ve been moving as well as to do some additional cleaning, especially high-touch areas,” Hendrickson said.

Smith said the employee wasn’t in close contact with anyone according to the CDC guidelines of constant contact but if more employees test positive, he will cooperate.

“If there tends to be a trend in which we would have to shut down longer, then we would absolutely abide by that,” Smith said.

Double-A’s was cleaned and Smith said they hope to reopen by the end of the week.

Double-A’s was only one restaurant that closed in the area — Publik House in Peoria Heights also closed to deep clean after a staff member tested positive.

Pizza 150 in Edwards also confirmed via Facebook Tuesday that they had a staff member test positive for the virus and are taking necessary precautions to stop the spread.

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