Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia
A sous chef working for Chartwells, DePaul’s contracted dining service, tested positive for COVID-19 on April 24.
The worker’s last day on site was three days prior, the day that he took the test. Still, Compass — Chartwells’ parent company — confirmed in an email to Chartwells’ union obtained by The DePaulia that they assume all workers and managers came into contact with the person who tested positive.
Compass and Chartwells originally did not advise employees to stay home, according to the email, despite the Illinois Department of Health’s (IDPH) advisory that those who have knowingly been in contact with a person with COVID-19 should self-quarantine for two weeks.
After an email to Compass on April 27 and a phone call the following day, the union was informed employees who came in contact with the individual will be given paid time off to quarantine either through May 3 or May 6, depending on their last contact with the sous chef who has COVID-19.
“We do not believe that the affected associate came into close contact with any other associates or guests and can confirm they were not directly involved in the production or serving of food,” Chartwells’ Resident District Manager Mark Little said in a statement. “In addition, as we continue to follow CDC guidelines, we also conducted an additional comprehensive and thorough cleaning, sanitization and disinfection of the entire kitchen and serving areas this weekend.”
Compass will bring in other employees to keep operations running during this time.
While food is being prepared as takeout, union spokesperson Carson-Nelson noted that still requires some level of interaction with those living on campus.
DePaul has been notified of the sous chef’s positive COVID-19 test.
“Based on information provided by Chartwells, we do not believe that any DePaul students or employees had close contact with the individual who tested positive; therefore, students living on campus were not informed about this case,” said Cheryl Hover, associate director of emergency management at DePaul.
She added that Student Center employees were notified “out of an abundance of caution.” Students who suspect they have contracted COVID-19 can report that information to the university here.
When stay-at-home orders were first being instituted nationally, UNITE HERE Local 1 and Compass Group entered a national agreement that workers who have been advised to quarantine by a government agency or their doctor will still get paid.
Carson-Nelson notes the difficulty in addressing guidelines from the CDC or Department of Health as an essential worker; it may be difficult to discern if they’re supposed to stay home if an employer has said it’s okay to come in.
“How many of us can go to our boss and say ‘I’m going to quarantine myself,’” they said. “That takes a lot of courage, and we hope that workers can do what’s best for themselves and their families.”
CORRECTION (May 1, 2020): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the infected Chartwells employee’s last day was the day he tested positive. He took the test on April 21, which was his last day. He got the result back April 24.