Two In-N-Out Burgers in Colorado have seen COVID-19 infections soar to a combined 145 cases this week, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. That’s an increase from 122 cases last week and 80 cases two weeks back.
One unit in Colorado Springs has seen 83 cases among employees while a store in Aurora has seen 62. The spread in El Paso was determined to be an outbreak on December 6, while Aurora was designated as an outbreak on December 17. Colorado defines an outbreak as any location that experiences more than two cases. For an outbreak to be resolved, a site must go 28 days without a new reported case.
Zero deaths have been reported and no customers with COVID have been linked to the stores.
Both stores debuted on November 20, marking In-N-Out’s first entry into the Colorado market. Anticipation of the stores heated up so much that some customers waited around a dozen hours in the drive-thru to whet their appetite.
Denny Warnick, In-N-Out’s vice president of operations, said the restaurants are experiencing a “substantial improvement” in the number of new COVID cases. The executive said there’s fewer than five active confirmed cases between the two locations.
Warnick also noted that In-N-Out has worked with public health agencies to “review and confirm” that proactive steps are appropriate and effective. For example, the restaurants are limiting the number of employees and customers indoors, using staffing “cohorts,” and excluding anyone from work who has been a close contact.
"We know that trends can change quickly,” Warnick said in a statement. “The remaining Associates who tested positive have already recovered, and are presently healthy and well. While we feel positive about the improvement, we are concerned when any member of our Associate family is affected. We continue to keep them in our prayers and we’ll also continue to take action to keep our teams as safe as possible.”
The In-N-Out stores have remained open amid the outbreaks. Colorado public health officials said the locations haven’t temporarily closed because they’re adhering to frequent cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
“Recommendations to temporarily close are given when transmission within the facility is identified and to allow for proper cleaning and disinfecting,” an El Paso County Public Health official told local media.
The health department told the Colorado Springs Business Journal that it’s “continually reassessing the situation” to determine if its recommendation needs to change.
Officials also noted that fast-food business models, such as In-N-Out, present minimal risk to exposure.
“Interactions are short and the industry has put additional precautions in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission,” the health department told the outlet.