Washington gives restaurant guests a veto on being tracked

Gov. Jay Inslee is sticking with the requirement that restaurants record who has eaten in their restaurants and when, but has alerted consumers that they can withhold their specifics.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has tempered his controversial plan to record the identities and visit times of consumers who eat in restaurants with reopened dining rooms, though the burden was lightened for patrons rather than for their restaurant hosts.

Eating places that have resumed dine-in service will still be required to record the identities of the guests, when they visited and how they can be contacted. The information would be used if an employee or other guest is diagnosed with COVID-19 and health officials need to alert anyone who may have been exposed.

On Friday, Inslee issued the clarification that restaurant patrons will be asked to provide the information but can turn down the request. "This will not be required of anyone," the governor said in a statement.

The statement also indicated that contact information will be requested from only one member of a party rather than every individual present.

The governor stressed that the provided information will only be used for health-tracking purposes and cannot be coopted by the restaurant for marketing or sales programs.

In earlier statements, Inslee indicated that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 will not be identified to those who may have had contact with the individual.

The tracking process requires restaurants to gather and hold the records of on-premise guests for 30 days.

The statement was issued a day before restaurants in the state were cleared to resume dine-in service at 25% of their pre-COVID-19 capacities.

A similar tracking initiative had been proposed by the office of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. But the city opted instead to require reservations for dine-in customers. If an employee should test positive for COVID-19, the reservations book would provide a roster of what customers were in the restaurant during the afflicted individual's shift.

In addition, restaurants are being asked rather than required to keep a log of customers who were served.

In Alaska, walk-ins are permitted solely if the host restaurant maintains a log of customers and when they visited. Otherwise, advance reservations are required for dine-in service. 


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