Mitchell Jimmy John's worker tests positive for COVID-19

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An employee for the Jimmy John’s sandwich location in Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19, the store confirmed on Wednesday.

It is not known how the employee -- a woman in her 20s -- contracted the virus. The employee reported a positive test to Jimmy John’s franchise co-owner Pete Nelson on Sunday and he immediately contacted the South Dakota Department of Health.

The store was already closed Sunday, but remained closed on Monday for cleaning and those in contact with the employee were asked to quarantine.

The woman is also employed at a nursing home in Woonsocket, Nelson said. When The Daily Republic contacted Prairie View Healthcare Center on Wednesday, an employee declined comment.

It is believed the employee worked a half-shift at Jimmy John’s on Friday with no symptoms, but was screened prior to her shift at the nursing home and was then received a drive-up test at Avera Grasslands Clinic. Another Jimmy John’s employee that was in most frequent contact was also tested after having borderline symptoms, but results came back negative.


“We weren’t told about her having symptoms or anything,” said Nelson, who purchased the store in December 2017. “The first I found about it was when she called us and told us she tested positive. We didn’t even know that she had any symptoms or was getting tested. Immediately after that, we got a hold of everyone that was around her.”

Other Jimmy John’s employees, including Nelson, have been in quarantine since learning of the positive test and some have expressed a desire to be tested. But the Department of Health advised them not to be tested unless there are signs of COVID-19 symptoms.

Most will remain in quarantine until April 23, although the length varies on the date of contact. The infected employee “is doing well,” according to Nelson, but there is no timetable on when she can return to work.

Jimmy John’s is open once again, but the lobby has been closed, save for store deliveries and it is in the process of purchasing thermometers so that employees can have their temperatures taken upon arrival for shifts. Employees will also wear masks at work and will be sent home if there are any signs of COVID-19 symptoms.

The city of Mitchell has not dictated when restaurants can resume business after an employee tests positive for COVID-19, deferring to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The Mitchell City Council has passed rules during the pandemic limiting restaurant business to carryout or drive-thru service only.

Nelson said the Department of Health knew of the positive case when he called to report it. Mayor Bob Everson said he hopes affected businesses will take confirmed cases seriously.

“I would hope they are following those (DOH guidelines), but I have no enforcement to follow-up on that other than to take their word for it,” Everson told The Daily Republic. “There’s no way to track those people down.”

As of Wednesday, there are three reported cases of COVID-19 apiece in Davison and Sanborn counties. Everson said there have been discussions on out-of-county travelers coming to Mitchell for work, but the city is at the mercy of personal judgement.


“We can’t close highways, so there’s no way to stop people from coming through here,” Everson said. “There’s no ordinance that can be enforced to do that.”

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