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Businesses are not required to alert customers if there's a COVID-19 outbreak

Business owners are not required to alert customers in the event of an outbreak, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

THORNTON, Colo. — State data shows there have been as many as 628 COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado as of Friday evening.

Bars and restaurants make up 12% of those outbreaks, with 289 confirmed cases. And this prompted a question: do businesses have a duty to tell their customers when an outbreak happens? 

RELATED: Active coronavirus outbreaks at Colorado schools, events, grocery stores and more

RELATED: Summit County officials discuss contact tracing concerns for upcoming ski season

The short answer from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is no. Business owners are not required to alert customers in the event of an outbreak. 

However, state officials said contact tracers do identify who has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. CDPHE said a "close contact" is typically someone who has spent 15 minutes or longer within six feet of a person. 

Nevertheless, many businesses -- like restaurants -- are collecting customer contact information voluntarily to help disease investigators and contact tracers should there be positive cases or an outbreak in their business. 

Customer contact tracing

While counties conduct their own contact tracing, they'll collaborate with CDPHE. It's important to note that a suspected outbreak is defined by the state as two or more positive cases within a two week period. 

Here's a look at how two Colorado businesses have approached contact tracing. 

Topgolf

Topgolf in Thornton is one of the COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado. According to CDPHE, three employees there have tested positive for the virus and 18 have probable cases. 

In a statement to 9NEWS, Topgolf said the three confirmed cases were in early August, and these associates were required to self-isolate from the venue as part of their safety protocol. 

“The report of 18 suspected cases was a result of our enforcement of this protocol, however these are not confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Topgolf spokesperson Kara Barry wrote to 9NEWS. “Our safety measures, which have been designed to maintain the safety and trust of our Guests and Associates, also include custom-made dividers in between each bay, guidelines for social distancing and enhanced disinfecting measures throughout the venue and outdoor hitting bays.”

On their website Topgolf wrote, "Even with our significant health and safety measures in place an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists when visiting any public place.”

9NEWS asked Topgolf if they are conducting any customer contact tracing. We have not received a response. 

Hamburger Mary’s

Even though customer contact tracing is not a requirement, just a recommendation by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Hamburger Mary’s is doing it.

"We try to be a safe place for our community,” said General Manager Matt Wagner. “We're an LGBTQ establishment and we try to create a home for everybody to be whomever they feel comfortable being.”

Comfort and safety are their values everyday -- but especially now during the pandemic, Wagner said. 

"We're really feeling good about the processes we've taken," Wagner said. 

From the minute you walk in, staff start the COVID-19 safety measures by taking down contact information. It's for customer contact tracing if an outbreak was to happen.

“That's what we need to do to be moral and responsible right now,” Wagner said. “Think about the last time you walked into a business and were asked for your contact information.”

Complete guidance for businesses, including how to maintain healthy business operations can be found here. There is also specific outbreak guidance for businesses and guidance by sector

Data about confirmed outbreaks in a variety of business settings are publicly available on our website.

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