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46 coronavirus cases now linked to outbreak at Spokane's Borracho

The number of COVID-19 cases has increased as contact tracing has been carried out, according to a Spokane Regional Health District spokesperson.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The number of coronavirus cases linked to an outbreak at Borracho Tacos & Tequileria in downtown Spokane is now up to 46.

According to Spokane Regional Health District spokesperson Kelli Hawkins, the number of cases linked to the outbreak has increased as contact tracing has been completed. Hawkins also said the number is rising as it "carries on into family and work settings."

This comes one week after the health district previously announced that 24 cases were linked to the bar.

After the first announcement, Borracho announced on Facebook that it was temporarily closing as a precaution. The bar hasn't announced its reopening date as of Thursday, July 2.

The Spokane Regional Health District reported the outbreak on Thursday, June 25, but Borracho did not announce the temporary closure until the next morning. 

"After conversations with our staff and Spokane Regional Health Department, we have decided to voluntarily and temporarily close our doors to ensure the safety of our customers and team," the business wrote in a Facebook post on June 26. 

"We do not make this decision lightly as we have worked tirelessly to implement state and county guidelines to operate our business safely. However, we believe it is important to take every possible precaution especially during this recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Spokane," the post continues. 

SRHD is not requiring businesses to close for cleaning if an employee or customer tests positive, spokesperson Kelli Hawkins said. She added that the district does have the power to close them, but would only do so if it was "really necessary."

Only one of the first 24 people who tested positive was a Borracho employee and most were in the 19-29 age demographic, according to Hawkins. Those who tested positive were socializing in groups on the weekends of June 12-13 and June 19-20. 

Some of the people who tested positive had symptoms, while others were asymptomatic, Hawkins said. 

Dr. Bob Lutz, who serves as Spokane County's health officer, explained that many of the cases represent individuals who were not social distancing or keeping their interactions within small groups of five or less.

“We understand that many of us crave meeting up with our friends at our favorite hang-outs,” he said. “We can have those social connections, but it’s vital we socialize while also maintaining the required health measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

SRHD representatives said Borracho management indicated that they did have safety protocols in place, including: 

  • Temperature and symptom checks of employees when they arrive for work
  • Employees are required to wear a face covering and gloves when working
  • Employees are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 if they think they are sick
  • Bathrooms have been set up with no-touch faucets for handwashing and doors that can be opened without using a handle
  • The establishment is operating at less than 50% capacity to allow for physical distancing between tables
  • Staff are present at the entrance to control the number of patrons in the facility
  • Starting June 26, they will require masks to be worn by customers and have disposable face coverings available for customers if they do not have their own

RELATED: Coronavirus in Spokane-area businesses: What you need to know

SRHD recommended that Borracho put additional safety measures in place. The business said it will further reduce its current indoor capacity from 50 to 30 percent, provide complimentary face coverings for all customers, and request that people social distance while waiting to enter once it reopens, according to a Facebook post written on Thursday. 

"The #1 priority at Borracho is the safety of our staff, customers, and community. As we receive additional information, we continue to modify our service model to provide the best atmosphere in the safest possible environment," the post reads. "We thank the Spokane community for the ongoing support as we continue to work together and adopt new roles and responsibilities to make our city safe for everyone." 

In May, health officials also reported a significant coronavirus outbreak at the Philadelphia Macaroni Plant in Spokane, with dozens of employees who tested positive. The facility shut down for disinfecting and employee testing.

RELATED: As COVID-19 surges across Washington, young people account for growing number of cases