DEADWOOD — The owner of Saloon No. 10 has taken issue with the fact that the state Department of Health sent a press release March 30 informing the public that two employees had tested positive for COVID-19, naming her business in the process.
In a prepared statement distributed Tuesday evening, Saloon No. 10 owner Louie Lalonde said out of 108 positive cases and rising, in South Dakota, the Saloon No. 10 is the only private, non-medical business to be specified to the media by the Department of Health.
“This has created an unnecessary additional hardship for our employees and their families. They are being discriminated against in their daily lives and harassed online, which is unacceptable,” she said. “If this action was sincerely taken out of concern for public health, then we need to know where all other COVID positive cases work, and where they have been during the time they might have been contagious.”
The press release sent out by the Department of Health also states that both employees reported working while ill with COVID-19 symptoms. And further, that any individual who visited Saloon No. 10 March 18-21 may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should self-monitor for symptoms of infection.
Lalonde said that something she was unaware of was the fact that her employees were scared to death of working during the rising pandemic.
“That is the other unfortunate, sad part of this, is that everybody that has a job wants to be a team player. And so, they’re not all being honest with their employers,” she told the Pioneer.
Lalonde said both employees unknowingly had COVID-19 the last day they worked, one on March 20 and the other on March 21, but at that point, they only displayed headache-like symptoms which neither attributed to coronavirus symptoms.
“We have paid attention to all safety precautions at Saloon No. 10, beginning with St. Paddy’s Day” she said. “We’ve had wash stations and everything. My employees have all been instructed to every half hour, go wash their hands. And I believe that they all respected those rules and were all doing that, using hand sanitizer. So, when they were getting a headache, you know, people have headaches for all kinds of reasons. This time of the year with allergy season popping up, the stress of the entire situation and closing and being fearful of maybe having contacted the disease. I’d say there’s a lot of things that could indicate why people might have a headache. But that was the only sign that either one of them had, and it was at the very end of those days that they were working. It wasn’t like they were working from March 18th until the 21st with the coronavirus.”
The popular Deadwood bar voluntarily closed on March 21.
Lalonde said she respects the medical field and what lies in store for them in the coming weeks.
“They have a tough job ahead of them,” she said.
But she added that the Department of Health’s statement created the perception that the employees were working while sick. It was only after they were not working that they felt ill.
“… when they got sick, they got very sick,” she said. “But they never were working when they were that sick. I didn’t expect my people to come to work if they didn’t feel well.”
Health officials say that people can still spread the virus without showing symptoms, which adds to the difficulty of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Additional questions sent to the state Department of Health were not immediately answered, and the Pioneer will follow the story.
The biggest message Lalonde would like to communicate is the following.
“What the department of health did, I felt, was unfair,” Lalonde told the Pioneer. “To single us out, after we had done everything right. To now put us in a position because of that, because people immediately panic and even misinterpret things. But I feel awful that my employees are being treated the way they are. (Other employees are) being asked to leave various stores around the area, and it’s so unfair to them. They’re going through enough right now. And they don’t need to be embarrassed because they work at Saloon No. 10.”
Lalonde said, personally, she doesn’t feel like there has been anything done to Saloon No. 10’s reputation.
“Because I would hope to God after 57 years, I can stand by what we have represented as a family business,” she said. “Right now, I’m frustrated because we still have an opportunity to have a good summer. But we’re not going to see that if we don’t, all across the state, begin to pay attention.”
Lalonde expressed concern with bars that continue to operate, 20, 30 miles down the road, while the pandemic spreads.
“For their own safety and for the safety of our state, certainly, the Black Hills, we should close our doors and stop the spread,” she said.
Saloon No. 10 was the second business, behind Deadwood Mountain Grand, to announce they were closing their doors to the public.
Lalonde said both of the Saloon No. 10 employees who contracted the virus are feeling better and on their way to a full recovery.
She said her entire staff of 104 people have been instructed to self-quarantine through the April 4.
To ensure the quarantine is being upheld, Lalonde said she has her managers in close contact with the employees.
“If anybody shows any signs, any symptoms, they have been instructed to contact their healthcare giver or the Department of Health,” she said. “The people that were in close contact with the two employees have all been notified by the Department of Health and are now in additional self-quarantine.”
The city of Deadwood on March 25 mandated the closure of all casinos, bars, and restaurants, for on-site consumption, as well as a slew of other businesses.
“There was no resistance. Many businesses had already closed, including the Saloon No. 10. ,” she said. “The city of Deadwood and Deadwood businesses all understand how critical it is to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”
Lalonde said that state and local governments all need to take similar measures.
“Everyone’s bottom line, including our state government, should be to create a state that our residents are proud of and to be a state that people want to visit because we all did the right thing.”
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