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Chipotle's Norovirus Troubles Resurface in Massachusetts [Updated]

Not again

Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Chipotle can't catch a break. A location in Billerica, Mass., has been temporarily shuttered due to norovirus concerns, reports WHDH-TV. One employee at the restaurant is confirmed to have contracted norovirus, according to the Billerica Board of Health, and two more are suspected.

So far, the Board of Health has not received any reports of customers becoming ill. Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold tells Eater the restaurant voluntarily shut down.

"After learning that four of our employees were not feeling well, our restaurant in Billerica, Mass., was closed for a full sanitization," Arnold said in an email. "We do not know know if the employees are ill with norovirus, and no customer illnesses are connected to this restaurant. Any employees who reported feeling ill will be tested and held out of the restaurant until they fully recover."

When word of Chipotle's latest norovirus issue reached Wall Street, the company's stock took a sharp dive in after-hours trading. CMG shed nearly 3.5 percent in less than an hour.

Chipotle stock

The news couldn't come at a worse time for Chipotle. After dealing with salmonella, E. coli, and multiple norovirus outbreaks in 2015, the burrito chain has been working on a plan to make its food safer and win back customers. Last week, financial analysts made it clear the company was headed in the right direction on the road to recovery. Now, all eyes will be on Chipotle to see if its improved safety measures can prevent a large number of consumer illnesses.

On February 8, every Chipotle in America took a half-day so employees could tune in to a meeting that outlined the company's new precautions. Co-chief executive officer Morty Moran made it clear sick employees should stay home from work: "If you're feeling sick, especially if you've vomited, whether at work or at home, you need to let your manager or your field leader know right away," Moran stated during the meeting. Chipotle restaurant support Gretchen Selfridge reiterated the point: "When anyone vomits in the back of the house or the front line, this is a red event, which means we close the restaurant immediately."

There's no word on whether any of the sick employees vomited at the Billerica location, but it appears Chipotle followed through on its promise to drop everything and shut down at the first sign of a potential threat to food safety. Last year's public health nightmares have resulted in multiple lawsuits filed against Chipotle, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California is conducting a criminal investigation into the company.

The Centers for Disease Control notes anyone can contract norovirus from another infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The Billerica location is less than 30 miles from a Boston Chipotle outpost that was hit hard by norovirus in December. That outbreak resulted in more than 140 customers, mostly Boston College students and staff, becoming ill.

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