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Coronavirus exposure closes restaurant in Camden, town with most cases in SC

COLUMBIA — An employee at Rush’s restaurant in Camden has tested positive for the coronavirus, putting 35 people out of work for two weeks as the eatery undergoes a “deep cleaning,” the company’s vice president said.

“The health and well-being of our employees and customers is so much more important than anything, and this gives us a chance to make sure everything is completely virus-free,” company vice president Bill Rademacher said Wednesday. “It’s a big concern for everybody.”

In a letter to employees, Rademacher said a person at the DeKalb Street restaurant was exposed to the illness at an off-site event on March 2 but didn’t learn of the sickness for another 10 days, until Friday.

Coronavirus symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear after exposure. 

The letter, which Rademacher provided to The Post and Courier, says any customers who visited the location between March 3 and March 14 may have come in contact with the virus. Restaurants are not required to notify the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control or the public if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, state officials said.

To date, 60 cases of the virus have been confirmed in South Carolina, 25 of them in Kershaw County. The illness also contributed to the death of a Lexington County nursing home patient. More than 409 people have tested negative, according to DHEC.

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Rademacher said restaurant workers will be paid during their 14-day quarantine, and his letter referred them to a free online screening portal through the Medical University of South Carolina.

“We probably were overcautious in that we really don’t have much close contact. We’ve been working hard the past couple of weeks to make sure everything is sanitized at least a couple of times a day, and there’s no bare-handed contact with the food,” Rademacher said. “Inasmuch as this started outside (the restaurant), we felt, ‘Why not be cautious?’”

Lawmakers this week are working to fast track a $45 million aid package for DHEC using money from state reserves.

The request includes $15 million for personal protective gear, $15 million for more staffing and overtime, $5 million for lab cleaning, supplies and other staff needs, $2.5 million for a public education campaign, $1.7 million to quarantine the poor, $1.4 million for the transportation of laboratory samples, plus other expenses.

Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order barring restaurants from opening their dining rooms. Rademacher said Rush’s Camden location should be able to resume takeout operations once the quarantine period has lapsed.

Rush's has nine locations in Camden, Columbia, Lexington and West Columbia.

Follow Adam Benson on Twitter @AdamNewshound12.

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