Finn’s praised for rapid, transparent response
The news that no one wanted to hear but was expected anyway came from the Medical Center on Monday, July 6, when it was announced a worker had tested positive for COVID-19. While the Medical Center could not identify the establishment where the worker was employed, word started to spread, and people wanted to know.
Less than 24 hours later, in a detailed response, Finn’s Seafood issued a statement to The Block Island Times that provided a timeline and details about the positive case, which was immediately posted online and received almost overwhelmingly positive responses from members of the community and island visitors alike.
Block Island Tourism Director Jessica Willi said that Finn’s Seafood handled the situation “perfectly.”
Willi said she was “not surprised they were the first one because they are doing the testing. They had a plan in place and implemented it perfectly. It’s so smart to keep their housing separate. They are clearly working with the Department of Health and everybody they need to work with and do what needs to be done.”
The response set the bar as to how other businesses should react to similar situations, Willi said.
“You break the news and control the narrative. They immediately did what needed to be done,” said Willi. “It was never a question about whether we were going to have a case on Block Island, but we took steps all along to be as careful as we can be and as tough as can be with our own restrictions. We continue to regulate and have restrictions, including turning mask wearing into an ordinance.”
This past week there were also various updates about the case from the Medical Center. The Department of Health also announced that it would be testing asymptomatic people on the island on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Individuals need to sign up for a free test by 3 p.m. the day before at https://portal.ri.gov.
The state DOH and the Medical Center also continued to stress the importance of mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. Finn’s said it was implementing pre-shift screening at Dead Eye Dick’s, Finn’s sister restaurant.
The announcement from Finn’s, which was issued on Tuesday, July 7, stated:
“On Sunday, July 5, after a busy holiday weekend, we were informed at approximately 8:45 p.m. by the Block Island Medical Center that one of our returning employees had tested positive — after first testing negative on June 30 and not showing any symptoms — of COVID-19.”
“Upon notification, we activated our COVID response plan and have temporarily closed Finn’s Kitchen + Fish Market while we test/retest employees and thoroughly disinfect the property. Our plan is to reopen before the end of the month but we have not yet determined an exact date.”
“We are working closely with the Block Island Medical Center and the Rhode Island Department of Health to implement contact tracing and have turned over all relevant information, started quarantining staff that had direct contact, as well as testing/retesting staff as guided by the DOH.”
“We remain vigilant, dedicated, and laser-focused on providing the island with a safe and exceptional dining experience. As always, we appreciate the continued support of our staff, patrons, and our wonderful community.”
The Block Island Times’s Facebook page was immediately flooded with messages of support.
“Thank you Finn’s! We at Harbor Church are praying for your employee’s speedy recovery and that you have a bountiful and disease-free season!”
“Thank you for your professional, quick, responsible actions! We are all behind you and hope your employee has a full recovery and we see Finn’s reopened for business as soon as it is safe to do so! See you then! Love, Marguerite and Mary Donnelly”.
Island masseuse Crystal Hauser wrote: “Thank you for your well prepared plans and execution of said plans. We truly appreciate your dedication to your employees and all folks living and visiting BI. We will be here for you upon reopening and continue to support Dead Eye Dick’s. The best of luck to you all.”
Resident Kate Bird said, “Very responsive and responsible action instills a lot of confidence to continue to support Finn’s. Wishing you are all healthy and opening soon.”
Finn’s closed its message by saying, “Block Island is facing an unprecedented, uphill challenge this year. We are all exposed to visitors on a daily basis — some of whom are not abiding by Centers for Disease Control, Rhode Island, and town guidelines. At the end of the day, we are only as strong as our weakest links and we hope our experience and handling of this situation can become a teachable moment for other businesses to take social distancing and mask wearing seriously. The only way we stand a chance to face down this pandemic is as a united front. Lastly, COVID 19 does not discriminate. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, young, and old alike are all susceptible. It’s important to realize we’re all vulnerable and need to support — rather than stigmatize — each other through these uncharted waters.”