Missoula businesses close due to COVID-19 positive employees
July 2, 2020
MISSOULA - Two Missoula area restaurants announced via their Facebook page last week that they would close after an employee test positive for COVID-19. Paradise Falls voluntarily closed upon hearing from the worker and has been cooperating fully with the Missoula City-County Health Department’s investigation. The investigation is moving swiftly and employees who have been identified by the Health Department as close contacts to the infected co-worker are being interviewed, quarantined and scheduled for testing.
The Staggering Ox was notified by the Health Department that one of their employees tested positive for COVID-19. They chose to closed for a 14-day self-quarantine and announced the closure on social media .
“They took the move to be transparent,” said Ellen Leahy, Missoula City-County Health Officer. “We are not setting an expectation [that these will be noticed]. We have had a lot of cases that don’t require any public notice and we have had some work places that have decided they want to notify the public.”
According to a press release from the Health Department, the employee at Paradise Falls did not report to work when feeling ill and neither the employee nor the co-workers who are quarantined will be at work before completing their isolation and quarantine periods at home.
However, Leahy cautions that a person who has COVID-19 can be infectious a couple days before they feel any symptoms.
The Paradise Falls employee worked Saturday, June 20, from 4 - 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 21 from 8-10 a.m. and Monday, June 22 from 4-8 p.m. before showing symptoms. At The Staggering Ox, the employee worked June 20-22 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Leahy said Paradise Falls is going to do a terminal cleaning and the Health Department staff is working with them to do that. She added this was there choice, and was not mandated by the Health Department.
Leahy said the Health Department’s expectations of businesses whose employee tests positive is different for every case. The biggest issue facing potential spread is whether the employee works directly with the public or not. The case investigation interviews reveal the exposure risk to others. Close contacts are identified as those within six feet for 15 minutes.
A commonality among workplace spread, Leahy said, is the employees are taking all the precautions with the public, but when they go back in the break room, they let down their guard and remove their mask.
“They are protecting the public so they should protect their co-workers,” said Leahy. “It is good protection of your business to keep those things in line even when not dealing with the public.”
According to the press release regarding Paradise Falls, based on the nature of the employee’s work and an honest report about inconsistent use of cloth face coverings, it is not possible to ascertain who among any customers may have had an actual exposure to the disease. As a precaution, anyone who was a patron at Paradise Falls during the above time periods should be vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical care if they have symptoms and maintain six-foot distancing from others. When this is not possible, use a cloth face covering.
The Health Department reminds the public that these recommendations apply to everyone during this pandemic, at all times. COVID-19 cases are increasing in Missoula, with Missoula County reporting 45 active cases June 30, the third highest county in the state behind Gallatin and Big Horn Counties.
Members of the public who have questions about these incidents or about COVID-19 in general are asked to call the Health Department information line at 258-INFO Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.