CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- Health officials are looking into, what they say, is a new COVID-19 outbreak in a Chicago suburb.
The McHenry County Health Department says the coronavirus outbreak occurred at the Texas Roadhouse located at 835 Cog Circle in Crystal Lake. The restaurant has since voluntarily closed down and is working with the MCDH so that it may safely reopen as soon as possible, officials say.
"This was a voluntary closure. They made the decision, and they did what was right to prevent any unnecessary serious public health risk," MCDH's Community Information Coordinator Lindsey Salvatelli said. "We really wanted to get this information out to the public to give people the opportunity who may have been there and been in close contact, give them the opportunity to have themselves tested."
At least three employees and one customer tested positive for the virus.
But Texas Roadhouse said they didn't really have a choice in closing.
"We did voluntarily close, but we were told, if we didn't, the police would shut us down," Texas Roadhouse Spokesman Travis Doster said.
Anyone who went to the restaurant between July 19 and Aug. 4, or has had close contact with someone who worked or visited the establishment, is encouraged to get tested. Health officials also urge anyone experiencing symptoms to consult with their primary care physician and/or get tested. They are taking on the difficult challenge of tracing everyone who has either been inside the restaurant or been in close contact with someone who was there.
"This is not just limited to staff. There are also patrons to the establishment who have come back to link this as well," Salvatelli said.
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However, Doster says he thinks using the term "outbreak" is "alarmist" and that the employees who tested positive have not been in the restaurant.
"We have had three employees test positive," Doster said. "Not one employee ever worked in the restaurant; we believe they contracted COVID outside of the restaurant, and we exclude anyone with symptoms."
The health department, in turn, said the word outbreak is used any time multiple cases are linked to a location.
"We are continuing to work with them through this. We want to help them get to where they need to be to reopen," Salvatelli said.
Doster also says the restaurant was following COVID-19 protocols, which he claims the health department never checked.
"I just think this was not handled correctly," Doster said. "And again, nobody even came in the restaurant. Nobody looked to see what we're doing. We just don't feel like we got a fair opportunity."
While he does agree anyone who is experiencing symptoms should get tested, Doster says tests are not easily available in McHenry County.
"Their own website says they're having trouble, that there's a shortage of testing," he said.
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The restaurant is not sure when it will be able to reopen, as the county is requiring their 100-plus employees to get tested.
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