The Collegian
Friday, December 02, 2022

Passport Café shuts down because of COVID-19

<p>The Carole Weinstein International Center.</p>

The Carole Weinstein International Center.

Passport Café will be closed for the remainder of the week after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

The closure came one day after the University of Richmond’s new mask policy went into effect, which lifted universal masking for students in dining locations despite workers still having to wear masks.

The closure was first announced Tuesday via Dining Service’s Instagram story, which said that the closure was because of COVID-19 related staff shortages. The story was then deleted and replaced with another announcement that only cited a staffing shortage as the reason for the closure.

Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, confirmed that the closure was COVID-19 related in an email to The Collegian on Feb. 24. She also said the announcement had been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Senior Caterina Erdas had been working with the employee and found out she had been identified as a close contact that night, she said. Senior Nadia Iqbal also works at Passport and was contact traced, but assumed it was from someone in her classes until she got a call Tuesday morning saying it was from a full-time staff member at Passport, she said. 

After that, Iqbal felt the closure was inevitable, so she wasn’t surprised when her supervisor emailed them on Tuesday morning saying there would be a COVID-19 related closure, she said.

“I'm sure it's just an absolute headache to figure out who's safe to keep on working,” she said.

However, Iqbal said it felt weird how it seemed like UR had been broadcasting it vaguely as staffing issues since Dining Services did not explicitly state it was COVID-19 related in the reuploaded announcement.

“It's funny that this happened on the Monday that the mask mandate was removed,” Erdas said. 

The closure might just be indicative that the mask requirement was lifted too early, she added. Iqbal agreed that the timing felt ironic, but said regardless of the new policy Passport had stayed just as strict with mask-wearing.

While there is no mask requirement for students, staff and faculty when being served in dining locations, it is still strongly encouraged, Price wrote in an email to The Collegian. Dining Services staff will be required to continue wearing masks for now.

“I'm just grateful that the Dining Services still decided to keep our masks on for employees because if not, there’s a very good chance I could’ve gotten COVID-19,” Erdas said.

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First-year Madi Norris was sad to hear that there were staffing troubles in Passport, especially when the new policy doesn’t give staff the option to enforce mask-wearing, she said. Instructors still have the discretion to require masks in their classes, and students are required to comply, according to the policy.

For first-year Caitlin Mccormack, Passport is the only place she can get lunch on certain days because of her back-to-back classes. 

“I’m annoyed more than anything, but they’re closed for good reason,” she said. 

Passport should reopen on Monday, and all other dining operations are following scheduled hours, according to the Instagram post.

Assistant news editor Sarah Noorbakhsh contributed to reporting.

Contact news editor Natasha Sokoloff at natasha.sokoloff@richmond.edu.

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