Some El Campo businesses temporarily closed for precautionary reasons recently as the number of COVID-19 cases in Wharton County rises.

Management at Los Cucos Mexican Cafe, 805 E. Jackson, opted to have employees tested for COVID-19 Monday, although none were symptomatic. Pizza Hut, 2348 N. Mechanic, closed Friday and the Dollar Tree, 1270 N Mechanic, closed earlier last week for cleaning, and both have since reopened.

Local management for Pizza Hut and Dollar Tree would not comment on what prompted the closures.

If there is a positive case at a business, El Campo Mayor Randy Collins said, “It needs to be put out there by the business. The business needs to notify the public. But I don’t know how we as a city can go in if a worker tested positive. We can’t shut them down ... we don’t get any information (on specific cases).”

Wharton County Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland said he hasn’t received an official report concerning specific El Campo businesses closing for COVID-19 testing. Test results can take around two weeks to appear in county case counts available to the public.

“I’ve had a few calls from people that, especially since we have all the testing going on right now, have asked ‘can we go over there and get tested, because we felt like there was somebody that was exposed?’” Kirkland said. “That’s what we’re doing the testing for.”

Wharton County has 49 active confirmed cases, 44 recoveries and one death, of an elderly El Campo woman, as of press time.

About 40 Los Cucos employees were tested at the El Campo Civic Center. Other locations for the Houston restaurant chain also had employees tested, Manager Miguel Ortiz said, just to be safe.

“Better to do the testing for the safety of our customers,” he said. “In case anyone would like to see any proof that we are not currently having any employees with COVID-19, we can show them proof.”

El Campo’s Pizza Hut closed “out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our guests,” according to a sign posted on the store’s door. The store, which has remained open throughout the pandemic for to-go service, reopened Tuesday. The Leader-News reached out to store owner Philip Patranella, but did not hear back as of press time.

“There are all kinds of rumors out there, especially with social media,” Collins said. “I don’t feel like as a city it’s our responsibility to shut down a business ... there’s no direction from the state on penalties”

Dollar Tree closed last week for precautionary cleaning and sanitation, according to local management.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we will temporarily close a store due to health precautions. Adhering to guidelines from the CDC and local health officials, we will sanitize and clean the location before re-opening,” according to the Dollar Tree website.

Since some warning signs of COVID-19, such as headaches or achiness, can be vague, Kirkland encouraged locals to get tested if they want to.

“(Testers) can handle like 120 to 150 (tests) per day,” he said. “They get them through there about every three to four minutes, as long as you’ve pre-registered and done everything ... It’s an opportunity for us to get a lot of people tested and see where we’re standing.”

Testing will be conducted today, Wednesday, June 17 at the East Bernard American Legion Post, 8110 Hwy. 60; Thursday, June 18 at the Wharton Civic Center, 1924 N. Fulton;and Friday, June 19 at the El Campo Civic Center, 2350 N. Mechanic. All sites are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To register for testing, call 512-883-2400 or visit Registration for testing begins 24 hours before each site opens.

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