East by Southwest, a popular sushi, sashimi and Asian diner, is closing for several days after a waiter-trainee tested positive for COVID-19.
Chef-owner Sergio Verduzco said the trainee last worked a three-hour shift Oct. 10 and is a student at Fort Lewis College who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, through the school’s program that offers free nasal swab tests to students.
The trainee alerted East by Southwest about the positive test early last week, and Verduzco said he opted to close East by Southwest to get all of its employees tested and to clean the restaurant.
“We decided it was in the best interest of our employees and our customers to just close, get everyone tested and clean up the place. The health department told us we didn’t have to close – that we could clean up in off hours – but we decided it was better just to err on the side of caution and get the place professionally cleaned, and get everyone tested,” he said.
Almost all of the East by Southwest’s employees had been tested by Saturday, and as of Sunday no one else had reported a positive test, Verduzco said.
“He was a trainee, and he worked a couple of shifts last weekend, three-hour shifts, so he had minimal contact. We all wear masks and follow protocols in place, and we’re pretty confident that no one else has gotten sick. It’s been like eight days, and no one has reported getting sick,” Verduzco said on Sunday.
Verduzco said the exposure did not affect East by Southwest’s sister restaurant, Mama Silva’s, which continued normal operations.
East by Southwest is scheduled to reopen with regular hours Wednesday for normal operations – both take-out and in-person dining, Verduzco said.
“I think at some point or other, most of our businesses are going to see this happen, where you’re going to have to clean the place up and tighten up. We want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can, and we’re following proper protocols,” he said. “So I think there’s a little bit of fatigue going around. You see it with people; they’re not taking things seriously. But I think that it’s important that we stay cautious.”
On Friday, FLC reported 14 people tested positive in the last two weeks for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
That’s more cases in less time than the college has seen since its first week of testing at the end of August. In late August, the college reported about 17 positive COVID-19 cases, all of which turned up during move-in week when students living in on-campus housing were required to be tested.
In mid-September, FLC had no active cases, and as of Oct. 1, a total of 19 people had tested positive for the disease.
On Friday, FLC’s testing data showed a total of 33 positive cases, an increase of 14 since Oct. 2, and five active positives. An active positive means someone who is currently in isolation, having tested positive within the last 10 days, FLC spokeswoman Lauren Savage said in a previous interview.
The jump in cases occurred because the virus has spread within households, she said.