Restaurants work to keep diners safe but spectre of COVID-19 creates precarious outlook for future
CALGARY -- For one Calgary restaurant it only took the faintest possibility of contact with a COVID-positive case to close the doors for days.
According to a social media post by owner Connie DeSousa, the part-time employee last worked at Charbar nine days before their positive test result and knew where they had contracted the virus. The infected employee had no close contact with other employees.
Restaurant and entertainment giant Concorde Entertainment Group owns 19 restaurants and bars and in good times employs about 1,000 staff.
Operations manager Eddie Leung says all locations are closely following Alberta Health guidelines, wearing masks on shift and filing a form declaring their lack of symptoms.
Still he says it’s a matter of time before someone connected to one of the company’s businesses tests positive.
“Thankfully we haven’t had an infection yet, but I think it’s inevitable,” says Leung. “But we have to be ahead of it.”
Some of that is hammering the importance of health protocols and self reporting with staff, but it also extends to the management team’s movements, including considering limiting the number of properties they visit.
Between June 13 and 19, 59 per cent of reported new COVID-19 cases were in people under 40 years old.
Medical understanding of the novel coronavirus is still evolving. In the early days of the pandemic it appeared younger people were at less risk of the disease. While their illnesses are still statistically less serious, it appears they are more likely than older adults to be infected and passing on the virus while not experiencing symptoms.
“There are still lots of people that you are in contact with, you don’t know the health of the individuals you might be serving,” says Dr. Vanessa Meier-Stephenson, an infectious disease physician with the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. “It’s still really important to be doing everything you can to prevent the spread.”
But employers cannot control what staff do outside of work, how careful they are, where they go or how many people they expose themselves to.
Industry Group Restaurants Canada are encouraging employers to schedule staff in cohorts, allowing staff to work with the same people all the time, more effectively limiting the potential reach of a positive test result.