Those 35 initially reported sick after an Easter brunch at Luciano’s Cotton Club restaurant at Union Station in Worcester, Mass. has expanded to at least 195 out of 580 people served that day.
Worcester Commissioner of Public Health Dr. B. Dale Magee said in a statement issued today that, “three food handlers had symptoms and one tested positive for norovirus … it is highly likely that the source of this virus was the result of direct contact from an employee who was ill. It cannot be traced to any particular food item.”
The city’s divisions of Public Health and Inspectional Services have recommended the restaurant institute a sick-employee policy. Dr. Magee provided the restaurant with a sample policy that would exclude ill employees from work for at least 72 hours after they are symptom free. Once they return, the employees would be restricted from handling kitchenware or ready-to-eat food for an additional 72 hours.
Gus Giordano, who owns the restaurant and Maxwell Silverman’s, said that the restaurants’ current policy is to have anyone who calls in sick stay out for 72 hours. He will comply with the health department’s recommendations when it comes to symptoms of norovirus, he said, but he also acknowledged that waiters and waitresses who do not get paid sick leave might not admit to being sick.
Mr. Giordano was a bit skeptical of the high number of people with symptoms. When the story about the illness first hit the newspaper, the number of requested refunds went from 33 to 233, and he believes some of the requests were fraudulent. He has given fewer than 30 refunds for the $22 brunch, he said.
“I’m sorry it happened, whether it’s one or 195,” he added.
That’s all nice, but sick food servers are a constant and continual food safety threat. Policies are also nice, but meaningless without verification.