Several island businesses have shut down for several days after employees tested positive for coronavirus or out of caution as cases crop up among service industry workers.
A rise in cases was predictable among hospitality workers as businesses reopened and visitors packed Galveston’s beaches and tourist venues, public health officials said, while urging people and business operators to be careful.
Mike Dean, owner of several island businesses, beginning Sunday temporarily closed Yaga’s Cafe, 2314 Strand St., and Beerfoot Brewery, 2816 Ave. R 1/2, after employees at both venues tested positive, he said.
Likewise, the Galveston Country Club, which caters mostly to members, closed over the weekend after an employee there tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, Salsa’s Mexican Restaurant, 4604 Seawall Blvd., didn’t open Monday because some employees have family members working at places where an employee might have tested positive, Manager Jorge Oyervides said.
Dean was first informed Saturday about a positive case among his workers, he said.
Two other employees working at Yaga’s and Beerfoot also were tested and told Dean they had positive results Sunday, he said. All three employees have only mild symptoms, Dean said.
Yaga’s and Beerfoot didn’t open Sunday, he said.
“I just decided to pause,” Dean said.
Dean hired professional sanitizing crews to clean Yaga’s Cafe and Beerfoot Brewery, announced the closures via social media and was seeking guidance Monday from the Galveston County Health District.
Dean wasn’t sure Monday when he would reopen the two venues.
“There may be people that don’t want to work,” Dean said. “There may be people who are scared.”
Dean’s other venues — Float Pool & Patio Bar, 2828 Seawall Blvd., and BLVD Seafood, 2804 Ave. R 1/2 — remain open because no employee that works at those locations has tested positive, he said.
NOT TAKING CHANCES
A Galveston Country Club employee informed management Friday about a positive test. The country club, 14228 Stewart Road, didn’t open Friday, remaining closed through the weekend, General Manager Knute Lund said.
“She had some mild symptoms, but we don’t want to take any chances,” Lund said.
The country club sent a note to all its members about the positive test and the closure, he said, adding that the country club’s board had planned to discuss the next steps Monday afternoon.
All of the country club employees have been tested and so far no one else has tested positive, but some people haven’t gotten their results back yet, Lund said.
Country club managers don’t think the employee contracted the virus while at work, and the employee reported having come into contact with someone who had tested positive, Lund said.
Other businesses have closed out of an abundance of caution.
No Salsas employees had tested positive, but operators decided to close out of caution, Oyervides said
“It’s tough because our sales have been getting better, back to normal,” he said. “We put our customers first.”
Salsa’s will be closed for four or five days while all its employees get tested and wait for their results, Oyervides said.
Salsa’s is confident about its social distancing practices but will be stricter about some things upon reopening, like making sure workers dump the trash from vacated tables immediately before assisting other customers, Oyervides said.
There’s no question that cases are starting to rise among hospitality workers, said Dr. Philip Keiser, the top public health official with the Galveston County Health District.
People are becoming infected by interacting with infected family members and are getting it at work, he said.
“Whether they’re getting it from coworkers or from the public at large, it’s hard to know,” Keiser said.
The rumor mills are churning about outbreaks, and the health district investigates every one, Keiser said.
The health district hasn’t been publicizing names of businesses where an employee tests positive, he said, adding that the health district is quietly trying to work with businesses that have a problem.
“We certainly don’t want to drive people underground,” Keiser said.
People can’t rely on the health department to identify which business are safe and which aren’t, Keiser said.
“You need to be responsible and do the right thing,” he said.
The health district doesn’t have the authority to order businesses closed if there are positive cases, he said.
The city last month approved about $443,000 to test restaurant and grocery store workers, but that program hasn’t started yet, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.