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'Not a workplace outbreak:' Hardin County judge says majority of pizza restaurant employees with COVID-19 are roommates, socialize outside work

Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel said the information came from contact tracing performed by the county health department.

LUMBERTON, Texas — Health officials in Hardin County have been working to contact trace after eight employees of the same pizza restaurant in Lumberton all tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to a Wednesday night statement from Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel, about 65-70 percent of those employees "socialize together outside or work and/or are roommates." 

For that reason, the Hardin County Health Department said this isn't considered a workplace outbreak. 

McDaniel said officials found that 'appropriate food handler and CDC guidelines, including employees wearing gloves at all times at the front counter,' have been followed. 

MORE | Read letter from Little Caesars owner to Hardin County judge

RELATED: COVID-19 Numbers: No deaths reported in Southeast Texas on Tuesday, 200+ new positive cases

"Sharon Whitley, Health Director, informed me that she has no concerns about any customers of Little Caesars Pizza in Lumberton contracting COVID-19 from a transaction at this business," McDaniel said. 

Daniel Davis, the owner of Little Caesars reached out to McDaniel on Wednesday, saying an employee received a positive test result on Dec. 19. 

"As has been our policy from the start of this mess, we immediately pulled all employees that had worked with this person and had those employees tested," the letter continued. 

Seven of them received positive results. He said those employees immediately started the quarantine process. 

Most of the new county's new cases are linked to social gatherings of families and friends, according to Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel.

The county has seen decreasing hospitalization numbers and several recovered cases in the past week, according to McDaniel.

“I know that many of you have friends and loved ones who passed away over the past few weeks due to COVID that do not appear on this report,” McDaniel said in a news release. 

The judge said the county is running weeks behind on reporting deaths related to the coronavirus because the Hardin County Health Department doesn’t report COVID-19 related deaths until the Texas Department of State Health Services certifies the information.

Full statement from Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel: 

Since this report, I learned this afternoon that the Little Caesars Pizza in Lumberton has followed the appropriate food handler and CDC guidelines, including employees wearing gloves at all times at the front counter. At least 65% - 70% of the employees who tested positive socialize together outside of work and/or are roommates. Contact tracing investigation conducted by the Hardin County Health Department is the source of this information, and they find that this is not a workplace outbreak. The Health Inspector, ReJena Bolton, informed me this afternoon that this business has consistently followed all COVID-19 guidelines, and in fact, that they go over and above to ensure the health and safety of their employees and their customers. Additionally, this business is always very cooperative with the Health Department during any inquiry, which I appreciate.

Sharon Whitley, Health Director, informed me that she has no concerns about any customers of Little Caesars Pizza in Lumberton contracting COVID-19 from a transaction at this business.

My family and I are customers of this establishment, and have absolutely no apprehensions doing business there today, tomorrow or next week!

MORE | Hardin County COVID-19 testing data 

Credit: Hardin County Health Dept.

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