The Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) released a list of specific guidelines that restaurants and food service workers should follow on March 24—the same day that nonessential businesses were ordered to close by Gov. Charlie Baker. Restaurants are still allowed to offer delivery and take-out services under this order, as long as they follow proper social distancing protocols.
The CPHD broke down exactly what these protocols are, and it’s a little more involved than the general “wash your hands” and “don’t come to work if you’re sick” advice that’s been circulating.
First and foremost, management needs to confirm the health status of employees before they come into work. It is advised that anyone showing the symptoms of body ache, fever, cough, or nausea is not allowed to enter the restaurant. Even after recovery, it is recommended that employees stay home for a minimum of 14 days. According to the guidelines, “People without symptoms can transmit virus for two to five weeks after they have recovered.”
Customers should also be ordering delivery and paying online, rather than picking up a take-out order, when the option is available. No-contact delivery is the safest option, with food being left at the door for customers to retrieve rather than being passed between hands.
If take-out is the only option and maintaining a 6-foot separation is not possible, the CPHD recommends both customers and service workers speak softly with their head slightly turned to project less droplets, breathe through the nose rather than the mouth, and refrain from unnecessary conversation.
“A smile goes a long way,” the guidelines state. “This is not rude and it will make a difference in reducing transmission risk.”
“Social distancing and hand hygiene are the most important things to keep in mind when you’re buying food or getting take-out,” says Sam Lipson, Director of Environmental Health for the Cambridge Public Health Department. “If a market or restaurant is not enforcing social distancing or offering sanitizer, then we recommend that customers take the initiative to keep a 6-foot distance from others and wash or sanitize hands once you’re home.”
Many of the guidelines emphasize important daily practices that food service workers are already very familiar with. For example, even if not related to a viral illness, employees should still refrain from coughing and sneezing inside the restaurant if possible—and, if not, cough inside their inner elbow. Hair nets should be worn at all times. Employees should also be wearing gloves for all handling of food and money, and wash their hands for 20 seconds before and after putting on the gloves.
While wearing the gloves, it is important to wash hands with soap and water every 30 minutes to kill any trace of the virus that might have come from surfaces or objects in the restaurant: “Sanitizer is good, but not as effective as soap and water.”
Restaurant owners should be identifying, and frequently sanitizing, all of the high-touch surfaces in their establishment. A few examples are payment machines and surrounding surfaces, scales, shared shopping carts or hand baskets, bulk bins and utensils, and menus or lists on the ordering counter shared by customers, among others.
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