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Indianapolis restaurants say they've yet to hear from contact tracers after COVID-19 deaths
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Indianapolis bars and restaurants say they have not heard from public health officials after reports that an NCAA fan who visited a number of local restaurants died of complications from COVID-19 after leaving the city.

Shapiro's Delicatessen on South Meridian was one of the restaurants University of Alabama student and sports fan Luke Ratliff visited while in Indianapolis to watch the Crimson Tide basketball team compete.

On March 20, Ratliff, who reportedly died of complications from COVID-19 on Friday, tweeted a picture of a Shapiro's pastrami on rye piled high on a plate and a bowl of mac and cheese, both sitting on a blue tray.

Owner Brian Shapiro said an employee confirmed Ratliff's visit, adding that it was his understanding the 23-year-old wore a mask, picked up a takeout order and left.

But after seeing the picture from Ratliff's Twitter account, Shapiro said it does appear Ratliff ate at the restaurant. He did not know if Ratliff visited the restaurant more than once.

"The contact tracers should have been on top of this," said Shapiro, adding that he blames Alabama "for not being proactive enough" more than local and state health officials.

"The bigger question is why didn't Alabama be more proactive with our board of health?" Shapiro said. Neither health officials nor contract tracers have reached out to his restaurant.

Restaurants have a particular reason to be on edge after at least nine employees of the renowned Indianapolis restaurant St. Elmo Steak House tested positive for COVID-19 and a longtime bartender there died.

The restaurant briefly closed and many employees opted to quarantine rather than get tested. Health officials said no customers were exposed to the virus.

It's been two weeks since Ratliff tweeted the photo and several days since the student's death was reported. At this point, Shapiro doesn't expect to hear from anyone.

"I doubt it," Shapiro said, noting that it took at least three days for contact tracers to reach out to him after he tested positive for a mild case of COVID-19 last fall when his wife returned from Michigan. "No offense, but the water is already over the dam."

As news of Ratliff's recent visit to the restaurant spread, Shapiro said he's received calls from concerned customers questioning if Shapiro's Delicatessen was contaminated.

The restaurant has had to explain that the visit was two weeks ago, Shapiro said, and that the restaurant still operates under COVID-19 safety protocols.

"I do everything I can personally to stay safe. I can't police the world and people's behavior," he said. "When they come into the restaurant, they've got to have on a mask and they've got to follow the rules."

Shapiro has been incentivizing his employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even transporting some for appointments. He estimates that about 70% of his employees were vaccinated as of Tuesday (April 6). Currently no employees are quarantining, he said. The restaurant does not have any positive cases.

Other Indianapolis restaurants also said they have not been contacted by contact tracers, or declined or could not be reached for comment.

Michael Cranfill, co-owner of The District Tap at South Meridian and Georgia Street, said that if an employee reports contracting COVID-19, those exposed to the employee are required to get tested.

Cranfill said he has had not any recent conversations with contact tracers or known of any exposure at his restaurants.

Across from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which hosted March Madness games, management at the calzone restaurant Sauce on the Side declined to comment when asked if contact tracers had reached out.

In Fountain Square, Maialina Italian Kitchen + Bar on Prospect Street, where Ratliff also tweeted a photo from, could not be reached for comment.

Nearby, Steven Norris, the executive chef at Upland Brewing said he has not been contacted by health officials nor does he know of any exposure to COVID-19.

Back downtown, Kilroy's Bar and Grill general manager Laura Roseberry said the sports bar also does not have employees currently quarantining for potential COVID-19 exposure, out with symptoms or waiting on pending test results.

Health officials also have not contacted the restaurant, Roseberry said. With the tournament ending on Monday, she noted that it can take a few days for symptoms to appear in exposed persons.  

"We're just going to knock on wood that nobody brought it here," she said.

Kilroy's policy dictates that employees remain off schedule if they are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 or have been in contact with anyone positive for the disease. Employees cannot return to work until they can produce a negative COVID test result. Employees who test positive must remain out of work for 14 days.

"I believe as long as our staff stays clean -- washing their hands, sanitizing the tables and keeping their masks on — that we'll be OK," she said.

Contact IndyStar reporter Alexandria Burris at or call 317-617-2690. Follow her on Twitter: @allyburris.

Contact IndyStar reporter Binghui Huang at 317-385-1595 or Follow her on Twitter @Binghuihuang

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