DURHAM, NC (WNCN)– As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in North Carolina, some of the latest coronavirus patients include restaurant workers as more of these businesses reopen their dining rooms.
Elizabeth Turnbull is the co-owner of COPA restaurant on W. Main Street in downtown Durham. As take-out sales are down, she said they have decided to reopen their dining room on Friday.
“We’re really in a position where we have to open,” Turnbull said.
However, Turnbull said she doesn’t think there is clear guidance from the county or state health departments on what restaurants should do if one of their employees tests positive for the coronavirus.
“We are having to come up with our own plan for when, not if, somebody tests positive,” Turnbull said.
While employees are required to stay home if they have the virus, currently restaurants are not required to let the employees or the public know if one of their employees tested positive for the virus.
Some restaurants like Radius Pizzeria & Pub in downtown Hillsborough decided to close their doors completely when one of their employees tested positive for the virus last week.
According to their Facebook post, all of their staff will get tested for COVID-19. If all of the tests come back negative, they will resume business sometime later this week.
However, other restaurants are not telling their employees or the public if an employee tests positive for the virus.
“I’m very concerned that we don’t have a requirement for workplace notifications,” said NC state representative Graig Meyer, D-Orange County.
Meyer said his daughter tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after returning back to work at a restaurant in Charlotte a couple weeks ago.
He said her employer did not tell any of her co-workers she had the virus.
“Whether you’re a customer or an employee, if I was at a restaurant I would want to know if I was there and if someone else had it,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he is working on a piece of legislation that would require restaurants tell their employees about COVID-19 cases in the workplace. In addition, he said there is also a need for better contact tracing in the state.
“We only have about 5% of what some experts say we need in terms of contact tracers,” Meyer said.
He said his bill would take money from the Federal CARES Act and would put money toward hiring more contact tracers.
Turnbull said she agrees there is a need for better contact tracing and she is also in support of requiring restaurants tell their employees and the pubic if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
“I think it just puts everybody at risk if we aren’t transparent about it,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull said she would also like to see the state make testing more accessible to essential employees such as restaurant workers who constantly come in contact with the public.