Bars and restaurants need to develop systems to inform customers when a staff member tests positive for Covid 19

Fauci noted that “Bars are bad news” during a Senate hearing on covid 19 today, and he’s right. No one should be going to a bar right now. No one should be playing music in a bar. No one should be working in a bar right now. Just a terrible idea all around.

But people are doing it anyway, and, though the risks are very high, there have to be systems in place to minimize that risk and help insure the safety of customers and workers.

At least two bars in Ann Arbor, MI have had staff members test positive for Covid 19 within the past week. One did the right thing. They shut down operations and had their entire staff tested immediately. A couple of days later, they issued a statement informing the public of what happened and what they did. The other has yet to do anything at all, unfortunately.

Closures and public statements are good things, but maybe there’s another step that businesses can take to inform customers in a timely manner. I suggest collected phone or email contact information from customers each night.

Businesses would send out a text or an email message informing the customer a staff member tested positive and it is possible that they may have been exposed to covid19 and should get tested and isolate as soon as possible.

As this system would be voluntary, no privacy would be violated. It is likely that most patrons would consent to receiving such notices. Personally, I would like to know. I would also like to receive that information sooner rather than later.

A QR code app based system such as that being implement in South Korea would be preferable, but it is unlikely that such a system would be acceptable in the US, aside from issues of cost. A simple email list might be an easy, low cost method of informing the public when they might have been at risk for infection.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

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