Coronavirus

Cluster of breakthrough COVID cases affects Nantucket restaurant Millie’s

Close to 30 employees have chosen to leave following the positive cases.

madaket beach
A view of Madaket Beach on Nantucket. Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

As breakthrough COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, a Nantucket restaurant experienced its own cluster of cases over the course of a week.

Eaghmon Banks, chief operating officer at Georgetown Events, confirmed that five fully-vaccinated employees at the company’s Nantucket restaurant, Millie’s, recently tested positive for the coronavirus. One employee tested positive on July 25 and immediately entered quarantine, and the company learned on August 1 that four additional employees had tested positive.

In response, Millie’s provided its remaining staff of 62 employees with COVID-19 antigen tests on Sunday. All of the tests came back negative.

“We have a 100 percent rate of vaccination,” Banks told Boston.com. “It’s a requirement of our company. We had a June 10 deadline — nobody at the company could work if they were not vaccinated.”

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Masks are also mandatory for employees at Millie’s, both for inside and outdoor dining, and temperature checks are conducted before each employee begins a shift.

Still, the cluster of cases prompted multiple Millie’s employees to quit. Banks said the number of employees who quit following the positive cases is now around 28, though he said a couple of people have asked for their jobs back.

According to Nantucket Magazine, one former employee was “critical of the way in which Millie’s had handled the situation,” while another left the restaurant two weeks early “because they couldn’t risk getting sick.” Banks said that those who left Millie’s were “not on bad terms with us as far as we’re concerned,” and that many of them were scheduled to leave at the end of July or the end of the season.

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“Some people had come up and said to us, it’s not worth the risk for us to get somebody sick,” he said. “We had a person who was a server who said, I got a scholarship and it starts in two weeks, I can’t risk being sick for my scholarship. We said absolutely. … Most of the people [who quit] — now it’s up to 28 — they were done by August 15 as it was. They just didn’t see it worth the risk to stay and work or they didn’t want to keep on working.”

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Millie’s did not close the restaurant following the positive cases. Georgetown Events CEO Marisa Casey stated that the team reached out to the Nantucket Department of Health on August 1.

“We spoke to Jerico Mele, the Town of Nantucket Human Services Director, on the morning of August 2nd about the COVID-19 breakthrough cases and our subsequent handling of messaging, quarantine, testing, and prevention methods,” Casey wrote in a statement. “Mr. Mele commended our vaccine mandate, our processes, and believes that we went ‘above and beyond’ in following CDC exposure guidelines, agreed with the timing of our approach, and was satisfied about the subsequent testing of employees. He did not recommend that we close the restaurant.”

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Mele did not immediately respond to Boston.com’s request for comment.

While some restaurants are starting to implement proof of vaccination mandates for their guests, Banks said Georgetown Events has not made that decision for Millie’s. But he is unsure as to whether they will keep the restaurant’s upstairs dining room open, and that conversations regarding additional safety procedures are still taking place.

“This whole past year-and-a-half has been a lot of: What do people want you to do, what is the guidance, what does everybody think?” Banks said. “We’ve toed the line between not wanting to be too conservative but we don’t want to put people in harm’s way. How can you do that and ethically and morally know that you’re doing the right thing?”

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