The Loungin’ Lizard restaurant in Cortez, which temporarily closed this month after a COVID-19 outbreak, plans to reopen Thursday.
A weekly report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, dated Nov. 11, said 12 “staff” at the Main Street restaurant tested positive for COVID-19. Karen Dickson with the Montezuma County Public Health Department said that number could include customers as well as staff members.
The Loungin’ Lizard case was determined to be an outbreak on Oct. 27, the state health department said. Statewide, the report listed 59 restaurants with positive tests. Among them, the Loungin’ Lizard had the highest number of confirmed positive tests.
Amanda Puett, co-owner of the restaurant, said staff members are working closely with the Montezuma County Public Health Department to keep staff members, customers and the community safe while ensuring the business stays open long term.
“We are waiting extra days beyond the health department’s guidance to reopen to give everyone ample time to recover,” Puett said in a statement. The employees who contracted the virus “seem to be recovering nicely,” she said.
Puett said the county health department said the restaurant could reopen as early as Nov. 12.
The Loungin’ Lizard has been advised to disinfect surfaces in the restaurant frequently, and it will continue to require staff members and customers to wear masks. Employees’ temperatures are taken before work, and they will answer screening questions to identify possible COVID-19 symptoms before starting their shifts.
When the restaurant closed Nov. 3, the county health department “informed us that there is no cause for concern to any of our customers,” but if concern does arise, they will contact customers directly, Puett said.
The state report said the investigation was active, but it listed no probable cases of COVID-19 among “attendees.” CDPHE says an outbreak may be considered “resolved” after 28 days pass with no new illnesses.
According to the state’s weekly report, the outbreak at Loungin’ Lizard was the largest active outbreak at a restaurant in Colorado as of Nov. 11 in terms of staff members who tested positive. However, a Chick-Fil-A in Broomfield had three confirmed positive tests among “staff” and 10 probable cases of COVID-19 among “attendees.”
The average number of positive tests at the 59 listed restaurants was 3.9, the state report indicated.
Officials from the Montezuma County Public Health Department said they could not provide further information Thursday evening.
CDPHE defines an “outbreak” of COVID-19 as two or more people who contract the virus in a single location within 14 days.
Cases started rising rapidly in Montezuma County in November. As of Wednesday, there were 332 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 147 active cases and four deaths because of the virus since March.
Puett said the Loungin’ Lizard will follow state guidelines when it reopens, which currently includes limiting indoor capacity to 50% and keeping 6 feet between parties on the outdoor patio. At the front door, customers may sign in and provide contact information in case they are exposed to the virus at the restaurant.
The restaurant also has a take-out option.