Governor eases return for once-sick restaurant workers, but some businesses question move

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The owner of Brick and Barrel Gastro Pub in Jupiter, questions doing away with the testing requirement for restaurant employees who were once sick with coronavirus. (WPEC) { }

Changing requirements at restaurants — until now, restaurant workers, once sick with COVID-19, had to test negative twice, in order to go back on the job.

But a new executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis changed that, instead emphasizing symptoms-based screening.

“I think that’s a really careless approach, to making sure we’re stopping the spread,” said Chef David Shroeder, owner of Brick and Barrel Gastro Pub at Downtown Abacoa in Jupiter.

“I think it’s a little odd, given the limitations they’ve put on restaurants right now, to add in this more lax law,” said Schroeder, referring to the current enforcement of reduced seating and hours at dining establishments.

Chef David said he's thankful none of his employees have had coronavirus.

Under Governor DeSantis' new order, instead of the two-test requirement, employees formerly ill with COVID must now go 10 days without symptoms and be fever-free, without fever-reducing medications, for 24 hours.

“The problem with demanding a negative test is these PCR tests will pick up just particles, RNA particles, so it could be dead virus," said Governor DeSantis, speaking Friday at a round table in Orlando.

"CDC has seen people test positive for up to 12 weeks,” long after symptoms went away, said DeSantis, adding healthy people who posed no threat to others were being unfairly kept from working.

The governor also pointed to the frequent delays in receiving results, sometimes rendering the testing meaningless.

And, Samantha Padgett, general counsel for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said it was often difficult for workers to obtain even one, let alone two tests.

“It’s not like they just get to come back to work, they still have to meet those requirements,” said Padgett. “Both the employee and employer still have very much a very vested interest in making sure that they’re creating a safe environment for customers.”

Chef David Schroeder agrees, but still questions doing away with the testing requirement.

“We want our guests to be safe, we want our employees to be safe," said Shroeder. "You know, we’re not doctors. We don’t know if someone is asymptomatic. I think everyone would feel better if we made sure.”

Restaurants are free to opt for their own tougher standards, and it’s likely Schroeder’s will not be the only establishment to do so.