This story was updated at 11:22 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2021 to include the fact that the outbreak has been reported to Montgomery County health officials, as well as other details
Strosniders Hardware in Bethesda has notified Montgomery County’s health department following a temporarily closure due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among its employees over the weekend.
Bill Hart III, one of Strosniders’ owners, told Bethesda Beat in an interview Monday evening that about a dozen employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
On Tuesday morning, Hart said Strosniders has been in touch with the county and is in the process of having employees get tested for the virus. He said he isn’t sure if more workers have tested positive because results have not come back.
Carmen Clarke, an epidemiologist with Montgomery County’s health department, wrote in an email Tuesday morning that “the manager said he was planning on calling the health department today as he just realized the scope of the problem yesterday.”
“For context, we have had had 800+ covid workplace, school and daycare investigations since September which come to our attention by various means,” Clarke wrote to county health department spokesperson Mary Anderson, in response to questions from Bethesda Beat..
Jody Menick, a registered nurse with the county, wrote in a follow-up email to Clarke that the situation is complicated because some employees might live in other jurisdictions or states.
“These are reported first to the jurisdiction where the person resides. It would then get referred forward to Montgomery county as a workplace,” Menick wrote.
Hart told Bethesda Beat Monday night that two employees who were out sick called in early Saturday morning and reported they had tested positive, and a third notified the store on Sunday of a positive test.
Management decided to close the store at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, shortly after hearing from the two workers.
Hart said the Bethesda store’s management asked its roughly 80 full- and part-time employees to get tested.
The store, which is on Arlington Road, sent an email to customers and posted on its website Monday that there had been an outbreak of the virus among its employees and that the store had “temporarily suspended operations.”
“Please bear with us as we navigate through this uncharted territory and work to get our store reopened, while keeping our customers’ and employees’ safety in mind,” the message stated.
Hart said he asked Strosniders’ marketing manager on Monday to send out an email notifying the community of the outbreak.
When asked by Bethesda Beat why the store waited until Monday to notify customers, Hart replied: “What was I supposed to do, send it out on Saturday morning? Once we gathered all the facts, we realized it was a big deal. I realized we probably should send something out to the customers on Monday,” he said.
Hart said most workers who have tested positive are office workers who don’t interact with customers, although “a few” are retail employees.
Hart said he wasn’t sure how long the Bethesda store will be closed — it would depend on how many employees were ultimately affected by the outbreak. He said when the store reopens, it likely won’t be fully staffed.
“We will probably be opened for shortened hours when we do reopen,” he said.
The message on Strosniders’ website stated that the store would notify the community when it reopens.