Dealing with COVID-19 was not on Bob Googe’s list of things to do on Tuesday, but his plans quickly changed. The Jittery Joe’s owner spent his entire work day managing the potential fallout after an employee at a campus location tested positive for the virus.
The employee, who works at Jittery Joe’s in the University of Georgia Science Library, reported a positive test on Tuesday. The individual last worked at the Athens-based coffee shop on Aug. 28, Googe said.
Seven Jittery Joe’s employees who were in close proximity to the worker didn’t immediately return to work. Googe said that UGA’s procedure mandates exposed campus employees to isolate for 10 days or wait 24 hours after a negative COVID-19 test while showing zero symptoms.
About a week before the positive test, Jittery Joe’s had another on-campus scare. The university told Googe that an individual with COVID-19 listed Jittery Joe’s at the Miller Learning Center as a place they had visited. Tables and other furniture at the MLC have been spaced out to accomodate for social distancing.
UGA couldn’t say if the individual was an employee, customer or someone else. Googe said the university also couldn’t relay the time of the incident, only the day.
“That’s the stuff we’re dancing with,” Googe said. “There’s squishy information, little information or no information at all. We’re doing the best we can.”
When Googe learned about the positive tests, he had a decision to make. He could either close the coffee shop while waiting for UGA to sanitize it or he could pay for it himself. He paid for it himself both times, disinfecting the property with Permea-Pure.
Closing wasn’t an option. Googe said revenue for on-campus locations has dropped 75% compared to this time last year. Although Jittery Joe’s didn’t have to close had it waited for UGA’s sanitation services, Googe said staying open without sanitizing would have been too big of a risk.
Business at Jittery Joe’s off-campus locations without drive-thrus has been down anywhere from 20%-60%, Googe said. Those locations mandate masks to be worn inside while not eating or drinking, according to the company’s Instagram.
Operating shops at UGA has more complications, but Googe said the experience has been an overall positive one since in-person school resumed.
“Working with the university, I have to say, has been spectacular,” Googe said. “Bryan Varin [Executive Director of Dining Services] — you might as well put an S on his chest and a cape on his back. He calls me back [and asks], ‘What do you need, how can I help?’”