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Delivery, but at a social distance: Carroll County restaurants find new ways to operate under rules of coronavirus

Owner Anna Di Fatta Cannon and Tammy Wilhelm go over orders at Belisimos in Finksburg Thursday, March. 26, 2020. Belisimos is stocking everthing from toilet paper and cleaning supplies to alcohol and bulk meat for pick up or local delivery.
Owner Anna Di Fatta Cannon and Tammy Wilhelm go over orders at Belisimos in Finksburg Thursday, March. 26, 2020. Belisimos is stocking everthing from toilet paper and cleaning supplies to alcohol and bulk meat for pick up or local delivery.(Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

With social distancing the order of the day, Carroll County businesses and their customers are adapting in order to get food, medicine and other supplies distributed with minimal person-to-person contact.

For restaurants in particular, delivery and carryout have been a way to keep people working at a time when much economic activity has ground to a near halt. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered dine-in restaurants and bars closed on March 13 as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus also known by the disease it causes, COVID-19.

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It’s made for a return to the familiar for Genova’s Westminster, according to owner Troy Lochner.

For Genova’s, a longtime carryout and delivery restaurant that opened dine-in services in January — only to be closed by the governor’s order — it’s a return to something they do well, with some modifications, Lochner said.

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“We have initiated curbside service where we will run their order out to their car and they don’t have to come in the store,” he said. “We are also initiating no-contact delivery. They can call and we get a credit card number and ask where they would like us to leave their order. The driver will leave it and call them to let them know they’ve left their order. It’s actually going pretty seamless.”

Customers are still welcome to enter the store as well, Lochner said, where they are taking extra care to sanitize surfaces, keeping any employees who show sign of sickness home and implementing workflows designed to minimize contact for everyone.

“One person is designated to take the money, another person will put the food on the counter 6 feet away,” Lochner said. “For the most part we have not had problems and customers have been understanding.”

In fact, whether it’s because they are purposefully isolating or just unable to eat out with restaurants closed, Genova’s has been receiving a lot of food orders, according to Lochner.

“Business is brisk, and we are glad to be there for there community and appreciate their support,” he said.

According to Dr. Henry Taylor, deputy health officer at the Carroll County Health Department, the whole point of Hogan’s order closing dine-in restaurants was to interrupt the transmission of the novel coronavirus — so minimizing contact during delivery or carryout, as Genova’s has done, can really help.

“This is a great idea, which shows creativity in implementing social distancing during this pandemic," Taylor wrote in an email.

Similarly, he noted, it could be possible to get prescriptions delivered as well, which can be considered a form of telehealth.

CVS pharmacies, for instance, are making many prescriptions available by mail, with the exception of controlled substances and those requiring refrigeration, according to Saul Pandey, the pharmacist at the CVS pharmacy in the Westminster Target.

“We’re delivering one or two-day [shipping] free of charge,” Pandey said.

Whether receiving food or something else, Taylor suggests inspecting packaging to ensure there is no damage or contamination, then discarding packaging and washing your hands.

Taylor emphasizes the hand washing.

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“Our hands constantly contact the world around us, as well as our face; that’s how the virus enters our bodies,” he wrote. “The key message is — you guessed it — wash your hands after touching something someone else has touched. Be aware of what you’re touching.”

Some Carroll restaurants are finding themselves offering more than just their usual menu items, as people turn to them for common household items either because they are hard to find at larger stores, or because they don’t wish to congregate around too many people while trying to social distance themselves.

“We are more of a grocery store now,” said Bruce Reamer, owner of Salerno’s Restaurant & Catering in Eldersburg.

“We’ve been doing some take-home family meals this week. Toilet paper, paper towels, bread, milk eggs,” he said. “What we have found is a lot of the people shopping don’t want to go into the big box stores. We are slicing deli meats and putting in the case so they can grab them and go, limiting the amount of contact they have with people.”

Since March 20, Belisimo’s has been offering a diverse array of food and household items for delivery or carryout at their Finksburg location in addition to their regular menu, including toilet paper, bleach, AA batteries and eggs.

“I was on Facebook Friday morning, and I kept seeing everybody posting pictures of empty shelves, saying, ‘I can’t get chicken, I can’t get cleaning supplies and toilet paper,’ ” Belisimo’s owner Anna Cannon said. “I was like, you know what? We have 100 pounds of frozen chicken breasts in our freezer right now. Why not help the people who need it?”

After initially announcing that they would be offering items like paper towels, frozen burger patties and mozzarella sticks, demand has exploded, with Cannon answering an average 100 messages a day. They are delivering orders as well as filling orders at the Finksburg location, and people can simply back up and have their trunk loaded to minimize contact if they wish.

All four Belisimo’s locations are also offering their usual menu items in addition to take-home pizza kits, Cannon said.

The best place to see what items are available each day is to visit the Belisimo’s Bar Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BelisimosBar, according to Cannon, where she also lists the prices — she is only charging the wholesale price.

“We all have to pull together to serve the people,” she said. “In a million years I never thought I would be selling raw food and toilet paper, but that’s the state of the world right now. You have to give people what they need.”

As of the evening of March 26, the novel coronavirus had resulted in more than 1,200 deaths in the United States out of more than 83,000 people who have tested positive for the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 10 people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus in Carroll County and none have died, health officials say.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Updates on the number of Maryland cases and other important information can be found on the health department’s COVID-19 webpage at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19/.

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