More Bay Area restaurants are closing temporarily due to groundbreaking COVID-19 cases among staff

With the highly contagious delta variant on the rise in the Bay Area, there is an early pandemic trend returning: temporary restaurant closures due to staff exposure to COVID-19.

After starting with a trickle, these closures have occurred more over the past week – especially among fully vaccinated employees. Most of the closures occurred after a staff member suspected of having been exposed to someone infected with the virus subsequently tested positive, subsequently prompting all restaurant staff to get tested.

San Francisco restaurants Nari and Aziza both recently announced multi-day closures after several vaccinated staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Oakland Ramen Shop is also closed after a vaccinated employee tested positive, according to an Instagram post. And the institution of North Beach Tosca Cafe has closed twice in the past three weeks, with the most recent closure occurring this week after a vaccinated employee tested positive, according to an email sent to diners with Reserve.

Nari from Japantown announced a weeklong shutdown on Instagram on Thursday after three fully vaccinated employees tested positive, according to owner and chef Pim Techamuanvivit. When a server first tested positive for the coronavirus last week, all staff were tested and received negative results. But Techamuanvivit said it had fired a few employees who had obtained rapid antigen tests for a PCR test, which is considered more accurate because it detects the actual genetic material of the virus. Subsequently, two other employees tested positive. Two of the three have mild symptoms and the third is asymptomatic, she said. Fully vaccinated people who contract the virus are unlikely to become seriously ill or need hospitalization, public health officials have said.

At Aziza, Managing Partner Scott Chilcutt has confirmed that the restaurant has been closed since last Saturday after three fully vaccinated staff tested positive for COVID-19. Aziza won’t reopen until next weekend, he said.

Tosca co-owner Anna Weinberg said three fully vaccinated employees had tested positive in recent weeks, with mild symptoms. The restaurant’s cycle of closing and reopening, she said, is like an “accordion.” Weinberg said she is not rushing to reopen her other restaurants, including Petit Marlowe and Leo’s Oyster Bar, due to lingering uncertainty over the delta variant.

Restaurants have taken different approaches to communicate their temporary closures to the public. Techamuanvivit posted a lengthy explanation on Nari’s Instagram page. She said it was important to be upfront with the guests.

“I think I would like to know,” she said. “Not being transparent is not really an option. It is not responsible. It’s not just the health of my business. It’s public health.

Aziza posted on Instagram, “for various reasons we made the difficult decision to close for a few days,” without going into the details of the shutdown. Tosca did not make any public announcements and instead informed diners who made reservations by email or in person. Weinberg said he got lost in the mix of calls to diners to cancel reservations.

In light of the breakthrough cases, some homeowners have taken additional safety precautions to keep workers and diners safe and to ensure they can keep their doors open.

Nari closes for a full week so staff can get tested twice before returning to work. When the restaurant reopens on Wednesday, staff will no longer taste any pre-service of food or wine. Instead, they’ll eat from individual take-out boxes outside rather than inside together. All staff will need to wear specific masks with stronger filters, provided by the restaurant, and will have to re-pass COVID-19 tests every month.

“It’s pretty scary as the sample size,” Techamuanvivit said of Nari’s three groundbreaking cases. “Delta really looks like a different virus. “

Others have implemented vaccine controls following suspected staff exposures or confirmed cases, including Snail Bar and Sister in Oakland and Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco. Ramen Shop, which closed on Thursday, began asking diners for proof of vaccination last week. When Tosca reopens, the restaurant will ask customers for proof of vaccination, Weinberg said.

However, some are reluctant to take this step. Aziza and sister restaurant Mourad both require staff to be fully vaccinated, but Chilcutt said restaurants are reluctant to ask diners the same.

“I’m not sure we want to go into checking guest immunization cards at the door,” Chilcutt wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

Restaurant owners, instead, are hoping that cities in the Bay Area or state will adopt a vaccination requirement for indoor dining – like those that currently exist in New York and Palm Springs – and take away the responsibility.

In a press release on Friday, the mayor of London Breed praised private companies which “step up” to institute vaccine requirements for employees and customers, but did not offer his support for an edict. city-wide.

Of San Francisco residents aged 12 and older, 78% are fully immunized. In July, the average rate of coronavirus cases for the Bay Area rose to double digits for the first time since February.

Elena Kadvany is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: elena.kadvany@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ekadvany

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