Six days after Public Health Seattle-King County closed Duke’s on Alki because COVID-19 was spreading among its staff, the restaurant says it has clearance to reopen today. (The PHSKC website confirms the reopening.) Subscribers to its email list received a message from founder Duke Moscrip, including:
… When the health authorities examined our Alki location and took the action to shut us down, we were devastated. Frankly, we thought we were following the safety protocols precisely. After cooperating with them fully over the past few days, we earned their approval to reopen today. Specifically, they approved the distance between our tables and the occupancy levels that allow us to keep everyone safe.
As a new layer of safety at Duke’s restaurants, we ordered and are installing new air purification technology over the next few weeks at all our locations to stop COVID-19 particles, other viruses, and bacteria in internal spaces.
Safety. That is the only thing important to us as we all begin to venture out more and enjoy our unique way of life here in the Pacific Northwest.
Despite every safety measure available, we expect we will see more cases of COVID-19 among our valued team. Today we are better prepared to properly react.
I know that many of you believe that Duke’s let you down. For that, we are truly saddened.
The message also says an unspecified number of staff members remain quarantined. This statement from the restaurant following last week’s shutdown noted 7 Alki employees had tested positive for the virus.
(ADDED 12:55 PM: PHSKC has since published this statement about the reopening.)
Before the shutdown announcement, after our previous report about two cases at Duke’s, we had asked Public Health some questions about how outbreaks are handled; we’d noticed while covering other businesses that no two seemed to be handling cases the same way. We have since received the replies, published below in Q&A format, with our questions and Public Health’s answers:
WSB: “What if anything are businesses required to report to PHSKC regarding employees testing positive?”
PHSKC: “Notify health department within 24 hours if you suspect COVID-19 is spreading in your workplace, or if you are aware of 2 or more employees who develop confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within a 14-day period.”
WSB: “What are they required to tell customers?”
PHSKC: “No requirements.”
WSB: “Under the new state guidance, what circumstance constitutes “spreading” at a workplace that would need to be reported?”
PHSKC: “We would consider ‘spreading’ when any person in the workplace, whether an employee, contractor or customer, might have been potentially exposed in the workplace. We would recommend that a workplace call us if they have any questions or concerns as it generally takes some investigation to try to determine the most likely location of exposure (e.g., community exposure vs. workplace exposure, etc..).”
WSB: “Once PHSKC gets a report of ‘spreading,’ what will you do with that information? How/is it investigated? Might orders for closure ensue?”
PHSKC: “- We first try to confirm any reported cases through our public health databases and if any non-household contacts have been identified already.
“- We then do an initial investigation call to (i) confirm whether transmission occurred in the workplace, (ii) identify any exposed workplace contacts (coworkers or customers), and (iii) assess steps that employers have taken to reduce the risk of transmission within the workplace and provide technical assistance when necessary.
“- If this investigation identifies conditions indicating a higher risk to employees or the public, we may schedule a site visit to the workplace. A public health order or closure could ensue if the risk level is deemed to be very high and we believe there is an ongoing risk to employees or the public that isn’t being mitigated.”
WSB: “What about employees who feel their employer isn’t taking appropriate action – is there anything they can do?”
PHSKC: “Workplace safety complaints about coronavirus or other issues can be filed with L&I (1-800-423-7233). Employees can also file a written safety/health complaint.”
(Again, we had those questions out to PHSKC *before* the Duke’s closure – the first of its kind in our area – was announced.)