All restaurant workers in Kingston asked to get tested for COVID-19

Health officials in Kingston are asking restaurant workers to get tested for COVID-19 following a spike in cases linked to fast food locations.

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health says in the last two weeks, 15 cases of COVID-19 have been associated with workers at 10 different restaurants.

"Out of an abundance of caution we recommend restaurant staff get tested. The risk to the public is very low, no customers have been linked to these cases," said KFLA Public Health on Twitter.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, the health unit said surveillance testing is being recommended for all staff following the new cases over the past two weeks.

Testing is available at the Beechgrove assessment centre for restaurant workers until Nov. 27. The LACGH assessment centre in Napanee has also offered assistance with the testing demand.

The health unit says if a restaurant worker is symptomatic at the time of testing, they are required to self-isolate while waiting for results.

"It's been a pretty steady week of them cracking down more and more, so this wasn't too much of a shock," said Stephen Rookwood walking to get tested for COVID-19.

"Monday more plexiglass came in... Wednesday we found out we had to get tested."

Rookwood works at Pan Chancho Bakery in downtown Kingston.

"I think it's part of the continuing trend of Kingston being pretty proactive."

Public health officials insist the risk to the public remains low, but workers are glad the health unit is taking no chances with staff.

"Being in a kitchen it is close quarters and it’s hot and we’re all running around, so I really like the idea of everyone getting tested," said Craig McEwen-Eden.

"So at least lets us know we’re serving safe food and it lets the customers know we’re eating safe food.”

With the exception of COVID-19 cases linked to a nail salon over the summer, Kingston remains a success story with low COVID-19 numbers.

With public health looking to stamp out any sign of a larger cluster of infections, owners are pleased hundreds of workers in the industry will be tested.

"The more we know the better. We’re going to get more information by testing people, and certainly thus far in Kingston restaurants haven’t been an issue, so to ensure restaurants don’t become an issue I’m happy to test," said Neil Highet, owner of Smoke N' Barrel.

Twenty staff members of Smoke N' Barrel will be tested over the next three days.

"We’re compliant, not just compliant - but we want to make sure we go above and beyond anything we could possibly do just from a level of comfort," said Highet.

Twenty-eight new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Kingston-area since last Friday.

In the last 2 weeks 15 COVID-19 cases have been associated with workers at 10 different Kingston fast food locations. Out of an abundance of caution we recommend restaurant staff get tested. The risk to the public is very low, no customers have been linked to these cases. pic.twitter.com/egXuJZysq6

— KFLA Public Health (@KFLAPH) November 19, 2020