Toledo-Lucas County Health Department inspectors have cleared Mama C’s Donuts to resume business following an outbreak of norovirus, though owners said it would be Sunday or Monday before the shop will open to customers.
The clearance comes nearly a week after the department began investigating the outbreak that sickened 325 in Lucas County and 69 in Wood County as of Friday evening, according to county health officials. New Friday were reports of secondary infections — those who came in contact with someone sickened by consuming Mama C’s products — 18 in Lucas County and nine in Wood County, Mr. Zgodzinski said.
Owner Yann Chao said the doughnut shop will reopen Monday “for sure,” and he will try for Sunday. He said he remained mystified as to what caused the norovirus outbreak, so he and his family would simply continue to do the best they could to keep their business safe and sanitary.
The restaurant first closed Tuesday.
Symptoms of norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, and body aches.
“I don’t want anybody to get hurt. If they get hurt, I get hurt too,” Mr. Chao said before expressing deep thanks to Maumee for its support.
Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski said the place is “pretty much spotless” and owners have cooperated with investigators throughout the process.
Tables and shelves full of equipment and utensils sat in the doughnut shop’s back parking lot Friday afternoon as a crew from Waterville-based J&R Contracting cleaned the premises, assisted by members of the Chao family.
“There is not a speck of this place that will not be touched with cleaner specifically designed to kill norovirus,” Michael J. Bostdorff, J&R’s president, said while overseeing the effort.
After that, he said, everything will be rinsed and then sanitized with food-grade sanitizer. All of the items out back were to be cleaned and sanitized when brought back inside.
On the building’s south wall hung posterboard signs bearing such messages as “Maumee [Heart]’s the Chao Family,” “You Make the World More Sweet,” and “We Can’t Wait for You to Open.”
Mr. Chao, who with his wife, Chandar Chao, owns the shop, said the signs had been hung Thursday evening by customers and friends, who also chalked messages of support on the sidewalk.
Mrs. Chao said she didn’t know what Mama C’s total loss would be in terms of lost business or cleanup cost, “but it’s going to be a lot.”
“We had to throw everything out,” she said. “That’s a lot of stuff. We’re going to make everything safe again.”
Mr. Bostdorff said that in his line of work, he sees the insides of lots of restaurants. While he said what he sees often makes him hesitate to return as a customer, that was not the case with Mama C’s.
“This place was clean when I walked in,” he said. “And now, more than ever.”
Mr. Zgodzinski said an outbreak can happen anywhere, even “a five-star restaurant,” whereas the place “that doesn’t look right” might never have a problem.
“Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw,” he said. “Something small happens in the process and procedure for prepping the food, next thing you know, there’s an outbreak.”
He said it often can be traced back to someone who has “hand contact” to food, but said the investigation is not complete and the source could also be a food preparation surface.
“Until we come back and look at all the data, it’s kind of hard to put a finger on it,” he said.
For those who are sick, Mr. Zgodzinski offered several tips to try to avoid spreading it to others: frequent hand washing, especially after using the bathroom and preparing or eating food; using a separate bathroom from others in the residence; cleaning surfaces frequently with disinfectant wipes; laundering soiled linens in hot water; and staying home if sick.
Anyone with additional questions can call the health department at 419-213-4264.
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