Norovirus Outbreak at Sky Room Leads to Voluntary Four-Day Closure

File photo.  

The well-known Sky Room restaurant and bar voluntarily closed for four days last week to implement a full-scale sanitation process in response to a norovirus outbreak, officials at The Sky Room and the Long Beach Environmental Health Bureau confirmed Monday.

Environmental Health Bureau Manager Nelson Kerr and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) call the virus one of the “most common” outbreaks in the U.S., infecting 19 to 21 million people in the U.S. each year. The CDC states that anyone can be infected, often by touching an “infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces.”

“It’s been contained—at this point, it’s over,” Kerr said. “The Sky Room took the opportunity to go above and beyond in its response, according to CDC guidelines.”

Kerr said the restaurant closed from May 22 to May 26  and used the CDC guidelines required of cruise ships in response to a norovirus outbreak, which involve cleaning everything with a specific concentration of bleach and water.

According to Kerr, a total of 18 cases of the virus were reported among employees and patrons, with 15 probable cases and three confirmed. The three confirmed instances of the virus were reported among three employees of The Sky Room.

Kerr said no common food link was found in those who contracted the virus, as they ate a variety of different menu items and contracting the disease can happen in many ways.

The first reported case of the virus occurred on May 1, when six people at a single table contracted the virus, The Sky Room owner Jonathan Rosenson said. Kerr said more complaints were made, with the most recent norovirus complaint being filed on May 9. He said some individuals complained after they recovered from the illness, and he believes all of the instances are connected to the initial May 1 occurrence.

“The Sky Room was very forthcoming and transparent,” said Kerr. “They hired a high-level consultant who implemented major sanitation efforts to make sure they stopped the outbreak.”

“We’ve cleaned everything—menu jackets, silverware, plateware,” Rosenson said. “I’ve never heard of anyone steaming fabric at 212 degrees.”

Symptoms of the norovirus include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting, the CDC states. Typically, individuals recover in one to three days after contracting the highly contagious virus, which is minor in most cases, but can be serious in children and older adults. Kerr said the virus can remain active on a contaminated surface for up to two weeks.

Kerr said this was the first instance of a norovirus outbreak in over a year.

Rosenson said The Sky Room has instituted new policies, such as not allowing patrons to bring in outside food, to ward off future instances of the norovirus. Rosenson did say that on May 1, one group of patrons had brought in an outside cake. 

“Food safety is our number one,” Rosenson said, noting that the owners’ grandchildren have visited the restaurant since the outbreak. “We want people to come to our restaurant and have the best time ever.”

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