There’s a growing COVID outbreak at two In-N-Out locations in Colorado totaling nearly 150 infected employees, state health officials noted this week.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases at the restaurants in Aurora and Colorado Springs, Colo., have grown from 122 to 145 over the last week, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. No deaths have been reported.
In a statement to Restaurant Business, In-N-Out said the chain is seeing a "substantial improvement" in the number of new cases at its Colorado restaurants.
"At this time, we have less than five active confirmed cases between our two locations, although we know that trends can change quickly," Denny Warnick, vice president of operations, said. "We are working closely with our public health agencies to review and confirm that the proactive steps we are taking are appropriate and effective in protecting our communities."
Warnick said the restaurants are limiting the number of employees and customers allowed indoors and are using staffing "cohorts" to easily trace the contacts of those who test positive.
Both outbreaks began last month and are among the largest active outbreaks in Colorado. A total of 83 workers have tested positive for the virus at the Colorado Springs restaurant and 62 In-N-Out employees have tested positive at the Aurora location, according to health department data.
Both locations remain open, according to local media reports.
A county health official said there was no recommendation to close.
“Based on Public Health’s follow up and investigation, In-N-Out is adhering to frequent cleaning and disinfecting protocols, in addition to enacting employee screenings, exclusion of ill employees and cohorting staff,” a spokeswoman for El Paso County’s health department told the Denver Gazette. “Recommendations to temporarily close are given when transmission within the facility is identified and to allow for proper cleaning and disinfecting.”
The National Restaurant Association, as well as many restaurant operators, have asserted throughout the pandemic that restaurants are not a site of large-scale spread of the virus to customers or employees.
Following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in September that linked dining out with contracting COVID, the Association said risks can be mitigated by following proper safety protocols.
“We still do not find evidence of a systemic spread of the coronavirus coming from restaurants who are effectively following our Restaurant Reopening Guidance,” the group said in a statement. “When restaurants demonstrate effective mitigation efforts, the risk is low when dining outside or inside.”