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VERIFY: Do restaurants have to close to clean if they have a positive COVID-19 case?

Cuban Island Cafe in Warner Robins closed after one of their kitchen staff members tested positive and reopened Tuesday. The owner says closing was her own decision.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Restaurants like Company Supply in Dublin and several owned by the Moonhanger Group in Macon opened their doors to customers back in May, but soon after, they had employees test positive for COVID-19 and shut down again for cleaning.

We wanted to find out if restaurants are required to shut down if they have a positive COVID-19 case.

The Cuban Island Cafe in Warner Robins closed their dining room after someone on the kitchen staff tested positive for COVID-19 on June 17th.

"I was concerned. Next thing, I was concerned about everybody here around and the first thing, it was to close," says owner Martha Uvalle.

She says they reopened on Tuesday after a deep clean and all negative tests. 

Uvalle says closing was the right decision.

"It was our own decision for the safety of everybody," she says. "You know what? I have peace inside of me. I feel good about it."

So if a restaurant has a customer or employee come in with COVID-19, are they required by the state to close for cleaning?

According to North Central Health District Spokesperson Michael Hokanson, it's up to the owners.

"As of right now, we do not shut down restaurants if an employee or customer comes back positive for COVID-19."

He says the health district currently does not shut them down or make any recommendations. They just provide them with the guidelines from Governor Brian Kemp's office.

"We will work closely with the restaurants to make sure that they have the education necessary to resume regular operations, if they decide to close down and reopen."

Uvalle says she was contacted by the health department when they closed and they were given guidelines.

Kemp's latest executive order says employees who show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 should remain home.

The order also says restaurants should sanitize regularly and clean tables in between diners, which Uvalle says they have been doing vigilantly, but nowhere in the order does it say a restaurant must shut down for cleaning, so we can verify that restaurants are not required to shut down to clean if they come into contact with a positive COVID-19 case. It's the individual restaurant's decision to close and for how long.

Hokanson also says they have gotten reports of restaurants not following certain health guidelines. 

If they are not properly cleaning or providing PPE, the environmental health department will go out to the restaurant to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do to keep people safe.

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