CDC updates best practices for protecting restaurant staffs

For the first time, the federal agency said it's OK to hire essential workers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Just take their temperature and have them wear face masks.
Masked restaurant workers
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants offering takeout or delivery should consider new measures for keeping employees safe from COVID-19, including temperature checks of workers who have had contact with a coronavirus victim, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The agency updated its recommended safeguards Wednesday for keeping employees of essential businesses from spreading or contracting the coronavirus. Restaurants that offer off-premise meals are usually classified as essential businesses under state and local stay-at-home directives.

For the first time, the CDC indicated that restaurateurs and other employers need not sideline any employee who has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Rather, the agency said, that person can work in a non-healthcare capacity, provided additional safeguards are adopted.

First on the list of those additional measures: taking an exposed worker’s temperature, ideally outside of the facility, before the worker enters to begin their shift.  

Those employees should also wear a face mask while on the job for 14 days following exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Employers should either provide a suitable mask or set standards for what the employee may use to keep droplets of the coronavirus from being exhaled.

Not all of the recommended practices are addressed to workers who may have had contact with someone carrying the coronavirus. In general, the agency said, employers should:

  • Discourage the sharing of headsets, telephones or other devices that could catch exhaled coronavirus.
  • Develop a feasible way of having all employees where face masks while on the job.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning common work surfaces, such as a restaurant counter.
  • Find ways of increasing ventilation in an enclosed area to improve air circulation.
  • Steer employees away from break rooms or other common areas when they take a break.

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