PHOENIX — One of the Valley's top-rated restaurants confirms it has two positive cases of coronavirus, raising questions about Governor Ducey’s exposure.
ABC15 has learned, the governor is a frequent customer and has dined at the restaurant numerous times in recent weeks.
Steak 44, near 44th Street and Camelback Road, said Friday an employee tested positive. The restaurant told employees the worker was last inside the restaurant on June 12, according to an internal email obtained by ABC15.
On Monday, the restaurant confirmed a second employee had tested positive, but did not provide details on when that person last worked inside. The restaurant said it is following CDC guidelines and is taking appropriate measures to minimize risk to other workers or customers.
"Since the time of our reopening we have had the safety of our employees and guests as our top priority,” said Jennifer Evertsen, Chief People and Development Officer for Prime Steaks, LLC, the restaurant’s parent company.
Employees, who spoke to ABC15 on the condition of anonymity, said there are as many as five other employees out sick and exhibiting symptoms. They say restaurant management has been reluctant to reveal that information to staff, and even threatened employees who might speak out.
“When we ask about the test, you know, are they positive, they immediately say, you’re not allowed to say that, that’s a fireable offense,” said one employee. “They kind of silence us immediately.”
“All employees have been reminded that employees' health information is confidential, and we need to respect their individual privacy,” Evertsen said in an email.
Employees say they want the restaurant to close for a deep cleaning, and they want management to test all employees.
“Let’s test the staff, find out who has it and who doesn’t and just clean the restaurant,” one employee said.
ABC15 reached out to two Valley doctors, asking them to independently evaluate safety protocols outlined in the company’s internal email. Both said the restaurant is doing what is required but could do more to ease concerns of employees and customers.
“I do think they needed to take the proper precaution and probably close the restaurant for a day or two,” said Dr. Andrew Carroll, a family physician who has advised Chandler officials on COVID-19 response. “Just to make sure the employees feel satisfied, and especially their patrons feel comfortable returning.”
Employees say, as more and more workers call out sick, Governor Ducey has been a regular customer, dining there at least once a week, often with a party of 15 to 20 people. Multiple sources say the governor did not appear to be following his own guidance regarding social distancing and face coverings.
“No masks, no social distancing… They actually cram all 15 people into a corner. They’re about a foot apart. I’ve seen him there quite frequently,” an employee said.
ABC15 reached out to the governor’s office multiple times to ask about his concerns, and whether the governor himself has been tested. No one from the governor’s office returned our messages by the time of publication.