Unfounded rumors of employees testing positive for COVID-19 have Hilo coffee shop reeling

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A car pulls up Wednesday to the drive-through window of Just Cruisin Coffee in Hilo.

Social media rumors about COVID-19 cases at Just Cruisin Coffee in Hilo left its owner frustrated.

Tom Fedenuik said he has been battling rumors that a few of his employees tested positive.

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After being in contact with someone who might have been exposed to the virus, a couple of employees were tested for COVID-19, and the results came back negative, according to Fedenuik.

“I don’t know how these rumors started. All I know is it went zero to 100 immediately,” Fedenuik said. “We’re already struggling with everything, and this just makes it worse.”

After the employees were tested, Just Cruisin remained open and continued to pay the employees while they were quarantined and awaiting their test results.

After three days, the employees came back to work with negative results.

“When we found out there may have been contact, we cleaned the place completely and made sure the employees stayed home after getting tested,” Fedenuik said. “I stayed open, because everyone else knew they didn’t have contact with anyone that had tested positive.”

To help keep up with safety mandates, Fedenuik has been giving his staff shorter shifts and making sure no more than five people are working at a time.

“Sometimes, I have 12-hour days, because I will stay late to deep clean,” Fedenuik said. “We have been taking this seriously since Day One, so it has been really hard to see these rumors floating around social media.”

He said the rumors caused Just Cruisin to lose loyal customers and quite a bit of revenue. He is considering more layoffs as the costs of running the coffee shop keep increasing.

“People spreading this are devastating my livelihood and tarnishing my reputation as a business owner as well as the reputations of my employees,” Fedenuik said. “If anyone had tested positive, we would have closed for a couple days and would have been honest about it.”

Fedenuik wishes community members reached out to him before spreading information that might not be accurate. He noted that COVID-19 is continuing to spread and will reach employees at many different businesses.

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“This is going to keep happening. There will be some businesses where employees will test positive and will have to deal with it,” Fedenuik said. “I think we should all be more understanding and not go out of our minds if something like this does happen.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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