By Nathan Ham
At least four Watauga County businesses have announced their temporary closures following positive COVID-19 tests for an employee. While it is just another in the long list of tough blows dealt to small businesses during this unprecedented pandemic, businesses are taking the right steps to keep the virus from spreading.
“We have heard a lot of chatter from businesses wondering what the protocol looks like if they have a member of their staff come forward and find out that they have COVID-like symptoms, what is the next step not only for the employee but for the business at that time, and how do you communicate that effectively to the community,” said David Jackson, Boone Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.
Jackson says that the chamber has received a lot of questions from not just businesses but also the general public about how these businesses are handling these situations.
Employees typically have their temperatures checked prior to beginning their work shift and have health screening questions to answer if they have experienced any of the coronavirus symptoms such as sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of taste or smell and muscle or body aches.
In the most recent chamber report video from David Jackson, he highlights some of the steps that employers should take if a staff member has any COVID-19 symptoms or has been in contact with someone diagnosed with the virus.
“Remember that anxiety is high right now, fear is high right now, so if you have an employee that answers yes to these questions, make sure you are helpful to them, don’t just run them out, make sure that they know where to go and what to do not only so they can come back to work but that they can safely move throughout the community,” said Jackson.
In a statement shared with the chamber on how business is conducted if an employee tests positive for the coronavirus, health director Jennifer Greene says that AppHealthCare does not require that the business close and “rarely would we make a public announcement about cases at an establishment for the simple fact that exposures can occur in various settings of daily living.”
“So unless there is a need to do so for the protection of public health, we lean more on ensuring notification happens to those meeting the definition of close contact during the infection period. When someone is a positive case, we look at either 48 hours before their symptoms began or 10 days prior to their positive test result if they had a test and were asymptomatic,” Greene continued.
Jackson reminded everyone that AppHealthCare is there as a resource, both for employers and employees.
“It is important from a business perspective to be transparent, especially if you are having customers beginning to ask questions. I think it’s very appreciative by many people to hear a business say ‘hey you know what, we have had a person test positive, we are following the procedures as outlined by AppHealthCare and we are in constant contact with them to make sure we are doing this right,’” Jackson said.
TApp Room, Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock, and Ransom Pub have all made public Facebook posts about their decisions to close temporarily. Starbucks on Blowing Rock Road is also “closed until further notice.”
All COVID-19 data, guidance, and information from AppHealthCare can be found here.