As the norovirus outbreak investigation at Overland Park’s New Theatre Restaurant expands to include more than 600 people sickened, the theater wants to assure patrons that it’s safe to return.
On Friday the theater was cleaned by Kearney-based Germicide Pro, a commercial and residential disinfecting and mold remediation company. Germicide Pro spent six hours Friday working on the facility at 9229 Foster St. with an EPA-registered disinfectant that “kills norovirus and is safe for food establishments,” according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It cost the theater $40,000.
Health officials from the state, Johnson County and Overland Park were also at the theater Friday to “educate staff about norovirus, oversee cleanup and observe food-safety practices.”
“We wanted to stop it, to make sure it was all safe. Nothing is more important to us than the comfort and safety of our guests,” said Rob McGraw, New Theatre vice president for sales and marketing.
Four people who became ill after a Jan. 17 performance had laboratory specimens that confirmed norovirus. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been working with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on the case and expanded its investigation to people who attended shows from Jan. 15 to present — whether they became ill or not.
So far during KDHE’s investigation, a majority of the illness reports were from people who attended New Theatre between Friday, Jan. 15, and Tuesday, Jan. 19. KDHE has not received any reports of people becoming ill who attended New Theatre after Jan. 27.
The theater holds about 625 people. Most of the food is served on a buffet, but servers bring drinks and desserts to the tables.
Norovirus is very contagious, and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. A person develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed, and most people get better within one to three days.
Norovirus is spread person to person (having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus), through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Persons who are ill with norovirus symptoms should not prepare food or care for other persons. The best way to prevent the transmission of norovirus and other diseases is by proper hand washing.
Some New Theatre patrons were cautious and rescheduled for later performances. The theater said it also is offering to credit customers’ New Theatre accounts.
However, McGraw said the theater has continued to have “full houses.”