Now that Arizona restaurants are able to operate dine-in services again, a new set of questions has cropped up.
Customers try to decide whether they should dine-in or continue carryout. Restaurant managers decide if and how they want to limit capacity. And, out of concern for spreading the coronavirus, owners must decide for themselves what to do if an employee or someone who has visited the restaurant contracts COVID-19.
If a restaurant employee comes in contact with coronavirus or even tests positive, the restaurant is not required to shut down.
Some places have made the decision to close anyway, citing public health concerns and the fear that further spread could lead to more shut downs. While guidance from the state and federal levels, as well as Maricopa County, all say that no employee who is feeling sick should go to work, they do not necessitate a shut down.
Here’s what local and national guidelines say
The Arizona Department of Health Services says restaurants should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. The bulk of that guidance is focused on the preventative side: washing hands, observing physical distance and wiping down shared surfaces.
In Maricopa County, restaurant inspections are based on the Food and Drug Administration Food Code and the Maricopa County Environmental Health Code.
“There’s nothing on these codes that would specifically address COVID-19, however; the code does require the person in charge to have a policy in place for employees to report illness and to stay home if they are sick,” spokesperson Johnny Diloné explained in an email.
The FDA issued a guide with recommendations specific to COVID-19, which says employees who have or suspect they have the virus to stay home and alert their supervisor. Then, there are additional steps that should be taken including disinfecting that employee’s workspace and increasing air circulation in the exposed area, if possible.
Still, the FDA does not recommend that a business shut down following a employee testing positive for COVID-19.
“To ensure the continuity of operations, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain symptom-free and additional precautions are taken to protect them and the community,” the FDA states on its website.
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