Over the last few months, Hepatitis A has been running rampant throughout Tampa Bay’s restaurant scene. From January 1, 2018 through April 13, 2019, Pinellas County had the largest number of cases, with 300, according to the Department of Health. Sixty cases were reported in the week from April 7 to April 13 of this year.
What the hell?
Most recently, CL has reported on cases which were investigated, but not divulged to the public by the Pinellas County Health Department, with restaurants including Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill, Ulele, Silverthorn Country Club and a Taco Bell location in Tarpon Springs.
Pinellas County Health Director, Dr. Ulyee Choe, told ABC Action News why the public isn’t notified after a case of Hepatitis A is found at a restaurant.
“We follow CDC protocols and it’s always recommended that coworkers get vaccinated. Again, we only make that public notification when it is a health threat.”
After the workers have tested positive for the virus they are vaccinated, as well as their fellow staff in most cases, and sent back to work.
The virus is spread through not washing one's hands, which in an array of reports, like Tarpon’s Taco Bell, the health department reported there was no hot water in the handwash sinks in either restroom, nor was the soap dispenser working in the men’s room.
But what about the customers who have dined at the establishment whilst the infected worker was on the clock?
Well, they need to get vaccinated too. Thankfully, the Pinellas County Health Department offers up free vaccinations; the Hillsborough Health Department does not.
That means if someone comes in contact with the contagious liver disease, they’ll have to cough up $25 if they have insurance. If they don’t have insurance, which is sadly a norm within the service industry, they must fill out a “patient assistance form” for the fee will be waived.
In an effort to keep not just her workers safe, but also her customers, Julie Curry, owner of Bake’n Babes located within Tampa’s Hall on Franklin, has offered to pay for her employees to get the Hepatitis A vaccination.
Last week, after news outlets were exploding with Hepatitis A cases, Curry decided to send out a mass text to her employees reminding them of the importance of clean hand safety along with the details of the Hillsborough Health Department’s vaccination protocols.
“If you incur any costs getting vaccinated I will personally reimburse you,” she told them.
Curry explained that she didn’t want someone to not get vaccinated due to not having an extra $30.
“I stressed to the staff that it’s not only our responsibility as food handlers to get vaccinated, but they also all eat out in Tampa — so get the damn shot,” Curry says.
By the end of the week, the entire Bake’n Babes staff will be vaccinated, safe to work and eat throughout the city without worry.
New restaurants are debuting nearly every week, with nearly 20 more announced in the coming months. Get vaccinated and wash your damn hands, Tampa Bay.
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