As Lane County awaits Governor Kate Brown’s approval to enter Phase One of reopening, restaurants will see changes in food safety guidelines. Some eateries have already implemented many of the protocols the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has laid out.
Once the county enters Phase One, restaurants will be expected to maintain physical distancing requirements that include providing 6 feet of distance between tables. It also requires patrons not of the same party to remain separated. Groups of up to 10 people will be allowed to dine together, but businesses can’t combine groups to share seating.
For mobile food units like food carts and trucks, restrictions on onsite dining seem to be lifted. Previous OHA guidance prohibited patrons from eating or drinking purchased items onsite.
MBOSQ’s Yanire Moreno says her family’s food cart has taken safety seriously from the start. MBOSQ was recently featured in a KLCC story about restaurants starting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s something that we should be doing anyway,” Moreno says about being cautious about food safety.
Moreno says they change gloves often, wash hands frequently, disinfect surfaces regularly, and they have hand sanitizer available for customers. They also have stones marked to keep customers 6 feet apart when waiting in line.
All of these, with the exception of providing hand cleanser, which is a suggestion, are required in Phase One guidelines. The OHA guideline also suggests limiting the duties of employees. Moreno and her family are already practicing this recommendation.
“I’m specifically at the window, so I definitely do not touch people’s food at all. We’re kind of trying something different right now, where my brother...hands out the food. I’m [only] handling money,” Moreno says.
One new requirement from OHA is the required use of cloth, paper, or disposable face coverings for employees. Businesses can also "encourage" customers to wear face coverings, however, the OHA states that businesses will need to "consult their legal counsel" to determine if they can enforce this upon customers.
As for how these guidelines will be enforced when Phase One begins, Lane County Public Health spokesperson Jason Davis says the county will try to educate businesses before seeking out entities like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"By in large, our businesses here in Lane County want to pursue health and they want to keep people healthy," he told KLCC. "They have no interest whatsoever in being the place where COVID is transmitted."
He says the county is relying on this ethos in hopes restaurants adhere to the new requirements. While the county doesn't set food safety guidelines for Phase One, Davis says the county will act as a moderator between local businesses and the state.
"What we're doing is going forward with the governor's guidance and really trying to make the best sense as we can out of that, and then certainly if there are questions, or grey areas that we identify before the fact, or if a business brings up a consideration that's not covered within the guidance, that's where we can act as a go between," he says.
Lane County is hosting a webinar for restaurants in need of additional guidance for food safety on Wednesday May 13 at 2:00 p.m.
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