Gov. Gavin Newsom in recent days has expressed heightened interest in enforcement of businesses regarding health and safety protocols, developing “strike teams” and pointing consumers to tip lines to report coronavirus improprieties. But as cases spike and reopening plans stall across California, a few Bay Area restaurants have temporarily closed upon learning workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mill Valley restaurants have chosen transparency in recent weeks when it comes to positive coronavirus cases among their staff. In recent weeks, Buckeye Roadhouse closed for two weeks following some cases and has since reopened, Joe’s Taco Lounge is currently closed for the same reason and Equator Coffees closed its 2 Miller Ave. cafe until this weekend after one employee tested positive.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “these restaurant owners thought they were doing everything right: requiring employees to wear masks, keeping them as far apart as possible, putting hand sanitizer everywhere. Now they are starting to learn that those actions aren’t always enough. The coronavirus doesn’t recognize effort.”

But even though businesses are not required to close for an extended period of time following a positive coronavirus case from its staff or to notify the public, business owners say it’s critically important to be open and honest during a moment in history without precedent.

“For the safety of ourselves, our community, and our beloved patrons, we have taken this step to help stop the spread of the virus in the most proactive way possible,” Joe’s Taco Lounge owner Gabriel Leis wrote in announcing the closure last week.

That transparency Is bolstered by the fact that in Marin, where outdoor dining has been allowed since June 1, more than 90 percent of establishments are meeting the best practices during routine inspections conducted in early May, Rebecca Ng, deputy director for Marin County Environmental Health Services, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

It’s important for the larger Mill Valley and Marin community to fully understand the procedures and protocols in place when a positive test occurs at a local business. So what are the requirements for businesses that record one or more positive coronavirus cases among their employees?

Employees who test positive for coronavirus should stay home and isolate for 14 days. Employers are instructed to keep the identity of infected workers confidential. Anyone who has had close contact with the employee, which means being within 6 feet of that person for 15 minutes or longer, is directed to stay home. All other employees should be informed of their possible exposure and to monitor their symptoms for 14 days. Work areas used by the employee should be closed down and disinfected, and in some cases, that means the entire facility.

In Marin, the owner should close the restaurant for sanitizing, and may reopen after that, Ng said. Closing for an extended period of time is the restaurant owner’s decision, not a mandate. Employers should report each positive case so the health department can conduct an investigation for each infected person. 

If customers see a coronavirus-related violation at a restaurant by an employee or another customers, they can call 415-473-6919 or email to make a complaint.

Case counts 
As of Friday, Marin County public health officials had documented 1,311 coronavirus cases since the first in mid-March. Nineteen patients have died from coronavirus in Marin to date, and 70 patients were hospitalized. The county has reported an infection rate of 4.3 percent out of about 33,000 tests.

At San Quentin State Prison, more than 1,300 inmates have contracted the virus after prisoners from the California Institution for Men in Chino were transferred there. The disease is suspected in several prisoner deaths.

Want to know what’s happening around town? Click here to subscribe to the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog by Email!