The Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County Public Health Department wish to express appreciation for the many local restaurants working with us to keep our community safe from the indiscriminate spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Following a surge in the number of COVID-19 infections associated with restaurants and other establishments where food is prepared and served, the Public Health Department implemented focused restaurant sector testing, combined with mandated enhanced employee illness screening, coronavirus education, and use of higher level face masks. Intended to slow the community spread of the virus and to protect the health and wellness of both patrons and restaurant employees, the program commenced on July 20. The program included the following requirements:
- Testing Requirement - COVID-19 testing for at least thirty percent (30%) of the total number of employees at each restaurant.
- Employee Screening – strengthened requirement to screen each employee at the beginning of the employee’s shift, excluding any sick employee from work until cleared by Public Health or a licensed clinician.
- Employee Education - provide employees with comprehensive training and enforce safe practices outlined in the State Public Health Guidelines for Restaurants operating during COVID-19.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – requirement of employees to wear higher level, more protective face coverings at all times while at work.
Restaurant owners and managers willingly participated in this comprehensive program and responded with several restaurants opting to test up to 100% of their employees. Over 500 restaurant employees were tested, resulting in 35 positive coronavirus cases detected, representing a positivity rate of about 6%. Over 20 establishments in Mammoth Lakes were found to have staff that tested positive, with varying impacts upon the businesses. Some were compelled to close for varying lengths of time to ensure safety of staff and public, however, this intensive effort was successful in containing additional community spread of the virus.
Although restaurants have been associated with pandemic virus transmission in many parts of the world, the Mono County Health Department is not aware of COVID-19 cases suspected to have been transmitted in our restaurants to members of the public. Community transmission is occurring in Mono County as it is throughout most of the United States. Locally, as elsewhere, our essential service workforce has been disproportionately affected.
Dr. Tom Boo, Public Health Officer, stated that, “While positive cases have been found in many restaurants, we applaud the local restaurant industry’s embrace of enhanced safety measures. Most of our restaurants have remained unaffected by COVID-19 but the majority have experienced hardship from the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have been proactively providing PPE for their employees, promoting social distancing, and practicing good hygiene. Restaurant owners continue to strive to provide a safe environment for their loyal and valued patrons in these difficult times. We are confident in the relative safety of our local restaurant food service and operations.”
“Over the past several months, owners have gone from “take-out” only, to limited indoor seating, with recently imposed state restrictions requiring them to toggle back to “take-out” and outdoor dining only. This has created additional challenges for restaurant operators in adapting to changing safety requirements that now mandate distancing,” stated Dan Holler, Town Manager. “The owners and managers deserve appreciation for their efforts to stay open to serve their guests in a safe and healthy manner.”
All Mono County residents and visitors are asked to do their part to #StaySafeToStayOpen.
This is more than a hashtag – it needs to become a way of life. Continued increases in infection rates or new impacts to Mammoth Hospital will require additional restrictions, which will have harmful economic effects on workers, businesses and the community at large.
The restaurant sector in Mammoth Lakes provides a valuable and needed service to residents and visitors and has gone to great lengths to operate safely in this constantly evolving pandemic environment.