North Carolina, despite logging record numbers of new cases over the past two weeks, including a new single-day record of almost 2,500 on July 11, still maintains the “safer-at-home” phase 2 of reopening. One of the defining provisions of this phase is the 50% capacity allowance for dining-in at restaurants. Now, in the second month of reopening, several Sylva businesses find themselves closing temporarily as their employees test positive for COVID-19.
Two iconic local pizza restaurants were the first to announce closures on Saturday, July 11.
Ferrara’s Pizza and Pasta, nestled in the corner of Sylva Plaza, announced their closure after two employees tested positive. In a recent update, they clarified that “The rest of our staff have been tested for covid-19 as a precaution, even though no one else have shown any symptoms. We hope to reopen when we receive our test results, which may take until the end of the week.”
The venerable Speedy’s Pizza, who had announced on the 10th that an employee had caught the disease, confirmed Saturday their closure for eight days while their employees awaited test results. A recent post to their Facebook outlined new policy going forward: “when we do reopen, we will probably do ‘to-go’ only which is fine with us and feels safer for now!”
Following behind over the next few days were another pair of businesses who are, similarly, staples of Sylva’s vibrant local community.
On Sunday, July 12, The Wine Bar and Cellar in downtown Sylva released a statement saying that they would be “closing for a period of time” after two employees tested positive. “Our prayers go out to our team members and our community who we absolutely love! We will continue doing everything we can to keep everyone safe as we see growing numbers of COVID cases in Jackson County.”
O’Malley’s Pub and Grill became the fourth to temporarily shut their doors on Monday, July 13. “We will be closing for at least 3 days. All other employees will be tested for the virus and will not be able to return to work until their tests come back negative and/or the Health Department determines it is safe for them to return to work.”
In each of these cases, it seems the employees did not show symptoms while at work, though presymptomatic transmission is believed to be a main driver in the spread of the virus, hence the abundance of caution taken by each establishment.
Bernadette Peters, owner-operator of City Lights Café, is no stranger to the struggle of maintaining a small business during these strange times. “I know it is really hard for all the businesses to make decisions considering the financial pressures and the fact that we are so dependent on tourism. I think everyone is trying to do the best they can but sometimes we make decisions we wouldn’t normally make to protect what we’ve worked so hard for. We really have to work together as a community.”
The local favorite is still open for business, earning applause from members of the community for their devotion to safety. “Every time we consider opening the dining room, we pause over what is happening outside. We may just have to remain a stationary food truck with an awesome patio for now!”
North Carolina’s phase 2 expires July 17. As cases mount, leadership has warned that returning to phase 1 was a possibility, though no decisions have yet been made.
To get tested, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place and input your zip code to find a local place.
For more information on the COVID-19 response in Jackson County, as well as press releases about identified clusters, visit http://health.jacksonnc.org/covid19.