Restaurant Owner Co-Founds COVID-19 Mobile Testing Company to Help Employers Like Himself

Jon Alexis, owner of TJ's Seafood and Malibu Poke, co-created SafeWork to offer on-site testing for employers to provide to their employees

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As the economy slowly reopens in Texas, business owners are faced with the task of keeping their workers and customers safe. It's a concern restaurant owner Jon Alexis is constantly thinking about.

"Obviously it’s not as simple as just opening the doors. It’s getting everybody ready, getting your staff ready, having a plan in place to maintain social distancing," said Alexis who owns TJ's Seafood Market & Grill and Malibu Poke. “Malibu Poke took us three or four days to make that happen, TJ’s we’re still figuring it out.”

Even though the governor has given the green light for restaurants to allow people to dine-in at 25% capacity, Alexis said at TJ's Seafood they're still only providing curbside.

He said between his five restaurants, he has about 100 employees but not everyone is currently working and he's helped them get unemployment.

"It’s been hard on obviously our staff, 40% of our staff is furloughed right now, and after the tornado blew through our neighborhood a couple months ago, it’s been a double whammy, but we’re doing the best we can," he said.

Alexis said he believes the only safe way to fully reopen is to have his employees tested for the coronavirus, which he is currently providing for them.

“Not only have we started testing all of our staff, here at TJ's Seafood and Malibu Poke, but I also worked with some friends to found a testing company," Alexis explained.

The demand and need for testing spurred him to co-create SafeWork, an on-site COVID-19 testing company.

“We hope that people understand that we have to reopen our economy and it’s not at the risk of public health, because we can accomplish both," he said.

He partnered with Dr. Nick Karr, who is the CEO of SafeWork. Karr also owns a chain of urgent care clinics called Sinai Urgent Care in North Texas.

"What we realized is the best way to do it is to bring the testing to the employer," explained Dr. Karr. "We bring everything with us and we're able to obtain the specimen there and then get it over to the lab and get these results consolidated back to the employers."

He said they've received interest from about 100 business owners in different industries such as manufactures, restaurants, and other entities.

Dr. Karr said they only us FDA approved labs to process the tests.

Alexis said he believes this is key in order to give his employees and customers peace of mind before returning back to somewhat normal conditions.

"We have been in the ‘prove you’re not going to make sick’ business for our entire careers,' so it’s just a new way that we need to show our customers that we are not going to make them sick," Alexis said. “We can reopen our economy if we do so safely and testing is really the only proven solution that has been proven in other countries to allow countries to open safely.”

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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