Major COVID outbreak at Mastros, including first known Omicron case in Coachella Valley – KESQ

Nearly 90 employees of Mastro’s Steakhouse in Palm Desert have been ordered to get tested for COVID-19 after a major outbreak among workers that included a case of the Omicron variant, health officials announced on Wednesday.

At this time, it is the only omicron case in the Coachella Valley. Riverside County reported its first case of the Omicron variant last week in the western portion of the county.

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County health officials said they are investigating more than 20 cases that have been reported at Mastro’s over the last 30 days. At least two of the employees were hospitalized after becoming ill.

The manager of Mastro’s was notified about the order Tuesday afternoon, with health officials urging them not to open the restaurant for dinner. After initially opening for service, the restaurant closed early so testing could be done, according to RUHS-Public Health.

A team of public health workers were at the restaurant Tuesday evening to offer the free testing.

“This step was taken to protect both the employees and members of the public,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Public Health for Riverside County. “It was not done lightly.”

One factor, officials said, was that an Omicron variant case was confirmed among the ill employees. The variant, which was recently confirmed in Riverside County, appears to be more contagious than other forms of the virus.

Employees can return to work after employees are tested and no virus is detected and exposures have been addressed, officials said. Saruwatari praised the cooperation from both local and corporate leadership of the restaurant, which she said made the testing process run smoothly.

“We are all interested in the same thing: protecting the health of employees and the public, and opening the business as quickly as possible,” she said.

Riverside County health officials have been reaching out more than a week to local managers and the restaurant’s corporate officials in Texas for more information about employees to help with contact tracing and case investigation.

Statement from Tim Whitlock, COO of Mastro’s Restaurants.

“We assure the public that we have and will continue to follow all CDC guidelines and have taken all required precautions to ensure the safety of our staff and guests. We continue to cooperate with the local Health Department. Our employees have been tested and any exposures have been addressed. The restaurant has been fully sanitized and will reopen this evening.”

Local health officials consulted with state health representatives who indicated the county’s action was within the guidelines of the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Emergency Temporary Standards for COVID-19 prevention.

State officials said a “major” outbreak is considered when there are more than 20 cases within a 30-day period.

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