AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Health officials warn people should take personal hygiene precautions, such as simply washing their hands and avoid going out if sick, to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. While there are no local cases in Georgia or South Carolina, we checked in with the health department and a local restaurant as the CSRA gears up for an influx of guests during the Masters tournament.
“Is our guard up? Yes. And I think everybody’s should be,” said Havird Usry, Fat Mans Hospitality Partner. His Augusta area restaurant and others are serving up dishes as usual amid coronavirus cases popping up worldwide, with the same protocol to stay clean. But Usry said even though the cases are not local, it’s time to be proactive.
“Hot water, anti bacterial soap, hand washing.” He added, “We want to make sure that we’re touching eyes, nose, and mouth as little as possible and if not, that should result in another hand wash.”
The lunchtime eatery and catering spot is telling sick workers to stay home. Usry told us in addition, his company also switched to disinfectant wipes instead of rags for table cleaning and customers have the option to eliminate their germs upon entering by using hand sanitizer.
But Usry pointed out there are no plans to curb business hours and there are already bookings for Masters Week. He explained that coronavirus is not a food borne illness and the only connection to outbreak areas have been eliminated.
Usry told us, “The only thing that we were actually getting from China, and since the tariffs, we are no longer getting from China are the paper goods.”
We spoke with a hotel manager and plans are in the works for a local chain. Augusta Regional Airport assures all that anyone with symptoms would be evaluated first at a major airport. And the local health department is preparing too.
Stephen Goggans, District Health Director with Georgia Department of Public Health told us, “For anyone who has symptoms or feel like they might should be tested. What we recommend is you need to get evaluated by your primary care physician or some health care provider. The healthcare provider needs to do the initial workup and screening and then if it looks like it’s a possibility, the next thing is the healthcare provider contacts the Department of Public Health.”
Usry, who also sits on the Georgia Restaurant Association Board, said most local restaurants are just now having these conversations and following similar protocols. It’s not that bad here, but he noted that in Atlanta, some Chinese restaurants are seeing a 50 percent decrease in sales.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps