CLEVELAND — Governor Mike DeWine shared a cautionary tale from Kent at his briefing on Thursday afternoon.
DeWine noted that there was a bartender at a restaurant in Kent who wasn’t wearing a face-covering during a compliance check.
According to the city of Kent’s health department, when questioned, the manager of the restaurant reported that the employee had an exemption. But that bartender, the bartender’s boyfriend, and three roommates all tested positive for COVID-19.
Bars and restaurants can be risky places, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
"It’s definitely a risk if you’re in a close space and you’re there for a while, especially if you’re not wearing a mask,” said Romona Brazile, co-interim director of prevention and wellness services for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. “It’s more difficult to know who’s in a bar, so contact tracing becomes more difficult, so someone may not know who was the five people that were all kind of by the bar.”
She noted that the difficulty of contact tracing in a bar or restaurant is why masks are critical for both guests and staff members.
“I think we’ve seen very quickly that this virus can pass very silently from one person to another,” Brazile said. “Oftentimes people have no idea that they were sick or starting to get sick, and it just seems to transmit pretty easily.”
As the front-of-house manager at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City, Heather Wild knows how important it is to make sure staff and guests feel comfortable.
“We know that there’s definitely a lot of people who have no problem coming out and having fun, and we want to make sure that the people who maybe aren’t so comfortable do feel comfortable coming into our building and knowing that we are doing the proper procedures to give them a nice atmosphere for their dinner,” Wild said.
“If we do our part, then we’re only making things safer for our staff and our guests,” she said.
She said almost all of their guests had been understanding of the need to wear masks inside.
"We don’t want to scold anybody that comes in the building. We just want to make sure that we’re staying positive and letting everybody know how to be safe while they’re within the four walls of our restaurant,” Wild said.
The restaurant has placed sanitizing stations around the building and has set up dividers in between tables and between seats at the bar.
In addition to the staff members wearing masks, provided by the state of Ohio, they’re handing out packets with hand sanitizer and masks in them to customers who do not have their own, provided by Destination Cleveland.
At Fahrenheit in Tremont, the restaurant has extended its patio for more outdoor dining.
"We’ve installed Plexiglas within the bar and our hostess stand,” Amber Caldwell, a manager, said. “All of our employees wear masks. We have UV ventilation in our HVAC/AC units that help kill germs while the fans are rolling."
She added, "Most of our guests, they want to follow the rules too. So they wear their masks until they are seated, and then once they’re seated, they’re able to take them off."
Even though Cuyahoga County’s alert level has been lowered to Level 2, both restaurants said it doesn’t change what they’re doing to ensure safety.
"Lowering the color does not lower our standards on what we need to do to make sure that everybody is taken care of,” Wild said. “It makes us feel good and that we’re doing our part, but we will still keep the heightened awareness on every procedure we’re taking."
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