Tree House Cafe temporarily closed after employee contracts COVID-19

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The Tree House Cafe has temporarily closed after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

Tree House owner Mark LeCorre reported the employee was a back-of-house worker and had no direct contact with customers, so Island Health is not treating the situation as a public exposure event. However, five or six staff members who worked closely with the individual are isolating at home as a precaution, as are another small group of employees that did not work in the same area but may have passed close to the person in the course of their shift.

LeCorre said the staff member, who is under 30 years old, was most likely exposed to the coronavirus during a family visit away from Salt Spring the week before. That person called in sick after getting a sore throat and noticing something was off with his sense of smell.

The employee missed work Tuesday and scheduled a COVID-19 test. The positive result came in Thursday afternoon, at which time Island Health officials started contact tracing and the LeCorres closed the cafe.

“It happened very quickly and efficiently,” LeCorre said. “Island Health was very helpful. Everyone who had been in contact with the person were contacted very quickly, so I feel quite confident in them.”

While Island Health did not recommend closing the restaurant, LeCorre said it was impractical to stay open when so many staff members from one area were isolating. They hope to re-open as soon as Sept. 14, although that may change depending on other employees’ health.

LeCorre added he has cancelled a music gig he was to have played this weekend and will be staying away from people for the next while, even though he didn’t work near the staff member in question. But he wants customers and the wider community to know Island Health has determined the risk of transmission to be very low.

“We’re doing more than we were asked to, instead of less. So better [for us] to just isolate and see what happens,” LeCorre said.

There is no need for panic or to avoid people because of having been at the cafe.

People should continue to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If they feel sick, they should stay home and reach out for advice or testing.

Island Health said that contact tracing from its Public Health team ensures anyone with a potentially close contact exposure to a confirmed case is followed up with. A close contact exposure means face-to-face contact while a person is infectious for an extended period of time. When public health officials cannot be certain they have reached all those who need to be contacted and there may be a risk to the public, they issue a public notification.

Island Health currently has no new public notifications. For the latest information on possible exposures, please visit: https://www.islandhealth.ca/learn-about-health/covid-19/outbreaks-and-exposures.

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