Nardi, owner of the Harmony Bar and Grill on Madison’s East Side, has worked countless hours in recent weeks to cover for the rising number of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 — part of a national surge driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021.
Now, Nardi is looking to go from pouring shots to dispensing them. She’s been in talks with fellow business owners and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce to see about setting up a booster vaccination clinic in Madison’s Atwood neighborhood — where her bar is located.
It’s been difficult to get her employees boosted amid skepticism about the effectiveness of the extra shots, something Nardi suspects may be an obstacle at other establishments. COVID-19 vaccines work well to prevent serious illness, but their effectiveness wanes over time. She doesn’t know when the clinic might get off the ground, but the Barrymore Theatre has agreed to host it. And the Goodman Community Center is helping spread the word.
While the surge has once again filled hospital beds to capacity, prompted the Alliant Energy Center to reopen a community testing site, and delayed the return to classrooms in Madison by a week, local businesses are also having to adjust. High case numbers have delayed returns to the office at least until the end of the month, forced retailers and restaurants to either close or reduce their hours, and resulted in staffing shortages.
Some establishments, like Downtown restaurant Lucille and Genna’s Lounge, have imposed vaccine requirements for patrons, while Fitchburg’s Quivey’s Grove requests patrons be vaccinated.
While 58.2% of Dane County residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated and boosted, according to Public Health Madison and Dane County, local daily case numbers have averaged in the thousands.
And despite several studies saying the omicron variant is milder compared with delta, the sheer number of cases is driving up hospitalizations and deaths.
Since Thanksgiving, 12 of Harmony’s 20 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, Nardi said. Her workers don’t have the luxury of working from home, and they’re anxious about how they’ll be able to pay their bills as they isolate, she said.
“I can’t in good conscience close and not pay my staff,” Nardi said.
The bar has yet to adopt newly recommended isolation protocols by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.
The CDC recommends that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients isolate for five days — down from the 10 earlier — after a positive test result. If there are still no symptoms after five days, the CDC says the person may go about normal activities while wearing a mask. Guidelines recommend another COVID test, if it’s possible, to confirm the person is no longer positive.
Octavia Bogan, community manager for the Progress Center for Black Women, assists D’Zuyah Webb-Lewis, 7, with her laptop during a study session Thursday at the center in Madison. The nonprofit began providing space for students to do their school work during the brief return to online instruction this week.
Zach Brandon, Greater Madison Chamber president, said there’s a need for “clear communication from government leaders about what metrics need to be achieved in order to move beyond emergency government orders.”
“That transparency enhances trust and compliance with existing orders, while also providing confidence with business decisions in the months ahead,” Brandon said in a statement earlier this week. “Greater Madison businesses also need continued support from the community. We all have an important role to play in strengthening our economy and being there for our friends and neighbors.”