Arby’s Springfield Location Closed Its Doors Twice Due to Norovirus Outbreak
Around February 20th, 2021, people began reporting cases of flu-like illness after having eaten at the 3009 S. Dirksen Parkway in Springfield Arby’s location. By February 25th, 2021, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced an official outbreak after receiving around 40 filed cases of illness connected with dining at this Arby’s location. Upon investigation, it was discovered that two Arby’s employees had either called in or left early due to sickness. During an investigation, at least one shift manager said that he was under the impression that HIPAA protocols prevented him from requesting about illnesses or symptoms or denying work to those who might be ill; he was advised that this is not the case. In fact, Arby’s has a strict no-illness policy.
Of the ten samples taken from alleged victims, ten returned positive for Norovirus—four of which were employee samples. Health officials and other food safety experts have considered that a worker, who was contaminated with Norovirus, may have prepared ready-to-eat food, thus spreading the virus. The Arby’s location was temporarily shut down for a deep cleaning and employee education regarding safe food preparation protocol.
However, the issue persisted.
After reopening, the Arby’s at Springfield was closed yet again, after more illnesses were reported in connection with this location. Sangamon County Department of Public Health director Gail O’Neill shared, “If we would have thought (the recommendations) weren’t being taken seriously or we hadn’t seen some action on their part, we would have taken a more aggressive approach.” The store re-closed and performed another thorough cleaning. At this point, it is difficult to say whether the second contamination came from an infected person, facility equipment that was not thoroughly cleaned the first time, or food – though this is unlikely since nearly all food items were disposed fo after the first closure. A facility and practice inspection identified four major violations: Employee health rules and enforcement, food separation and protection, temperature holding, and date marking of food.
Arby’s spokesperson recently addressed the Norovirus Outbreak and Arby’s plan of action stating: “Arby’s is committed to the highest levels of hygiene and food safety standards, and this is an isolated incident at a franchised location…Last week, out of an abundance of caution, the franchisee proactively decided to close the restaurant through the end of the month”. Arby’s assures the public that “the franchisee is fully engaged with the local health department and has conducted a professional deep clean, reinforced food safety training with all employees, and will have met all health department guidelines before reopening.”