NEWMAN - A Newman business closed over the weekend for thorough cleaning and disinfecting after an employee reported having tested positive for COVID-19, its owner told Mattos Newspapers.
Kern Hunewill, owner of Yancey Home Center, said he made the decision to close the store immediately upon learning of the positive test Friday morning, and then turned to the county public health department for guidance going forward.
Though not required, Hunewill said, he also decided to post a notice explaining the reason for the closure.
“I thought it was something that we shouldn’t try to keep secret. We wanted to have full disclosure,” Hunewill said.
Hunewill said he was advised by public health that he was not required to close the store, but said that he chose to do so regardless.
“We went completely through the store to clean and disinfect every surface we possibly could. We had quite a few people here all three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday),” Hunewill stated.
County health, he added, “did not ask us to do anything other than we were already doing.”
A number of people have asked the identity of the employee, Hunewill told Mattos Newspapers, but that information cannot be divulged due to confidentiality laws.
Hunewill said he has spoken with the employee and was advised the individual is recovering at home. Hunewill said the employee had not been on the premises since early last week.
Other employees are being monitored, he told Mattos Newspapers.
While his first thought was that he would have to have all employees tested, Hunewill shared, he subsequently learned that tests for the virus are only administered to people who are showing symptoms.
“We’re watching all of us who were here with the individual. We all feel fine,” he said Monday.
Hunewill said the business will be conducting temperature checks of all employees at the beginning and conclusion of their shifts as an added precautionary measure.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control call for employers to notify employees of potential workplace exposure while maintaining confidentiality, and then have employees self-monitor for symptoms, according to the CDC website.
Hunewill said that Yancey Home Center had previously established precautionary measures which included disinfecting counters between every customer, enforcing social distancing protocols among both staff and customers and frequently disinfecting doors and restrooms.
“I am very frustrated,” Hunewill acknowledged. “I haven’t been in any business that was doing as much as us at the time.”
Hunewill said that he has heard from a small number of people upset that the store, which re-opened Monday, did not remain closed.
But for the most part, Hunewill shared, the public has been supportive.
“The general response has been positive,” he said. “We have had a lot of customers tell us that this is unfortunate because we were doing more (preventive measures) than any place that they have seen people do. I think we have been and are more diligent than any business we have seen.”
He reiterated that the store’s response to the situation has been within and guided by public health recommendations.
“I don’t want to do anything that is going to jeopardize my employees or the public. The advice I have gotten is what we are doing,” Hunewill stated. “I want people to know that we are trying to do the right thing.”