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Restaurants inform customers of COVID-19 cases but transparency not required

Food safety experts say its up to the restaurant to keep customers safe and informed.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Last Friday, The Galley in downtown St. Pete announced on Facebook they were temporarily closing their doors after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19.

They weren’t alone.  A string of other restaurants in both St. Pete and Tampa have also announced positive cases.

“Customers right now want transparency,” said food safety expert and former health inspector Danielle Egger. “They want to see that businesses are doing what they need to, to keep them safe.”

But Egger says that transparency is not explicitly required by the state of Florida.  She says while the state requires any employee showing symptoms be send home immediately, the rest if left up to the individual restaurant.

“They are not required to report that to the Division of Hotels and Restaurants and technically they don’t even have to close the restaurant if they’re able to isolate the area where that person had contact.”

Most of the rules relating to how restaurants handle COVID-19 have come directly from the Governor’s executive orders.  Egger says it’s up to restaurant management to keep their customers and employees safe.

“The best advice I can give is that if somebody comes into work, and they are feeling ill and they test positive for COVID-19, as terrible as it sounds, close the restaurant for at least 24 hours,” said Egger. tegna

“Then allow staff to come back in and thoroughly sanitize and disinfect all of the surfaces before reopening.”

The good news for restaurants, COVID-19 is not considered a foodborne illness. But Egger says employees who deal with customers should be extra vigilant about wearing masks, and restaurant managers should be ready with a plan in case someone shows up sick.

“I don’t think it’s an if, I think it’s when an employee comes into work and test positive, you’re going to need to know where to send them.”

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