With some parts of the US reopening restaurants, some people living in areas that are easing restrictions may be reluctant to go out, in part because they don’t know what to expect. With different states and communities taking different approaches, new in-house dining standards remain unclear. But as far as federal guidance is concerned, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new decision tool for restaurants and bars late last week.
The new tool is helpful from both a restaurant owner’s and a customer’s perspective, as it explains what to look for to assure that establishments are up to CDC standards. The first major recommendation is that reopening should “be consistent with applicable state and local orders,” which is worth considering: If only one bar is open in an entire city, that’s a red flag.
Digging into specifics, the guidance is broken down into two groups: one for health and safety and one for monitoring. The first group covers things like hand-washing stations and employees wearing face coverings. Additionally, restaurants and bars should “encourage social distancing and enhance spacing [through the] spacing of tables/stools, limiting party sizes and occupancy, avoiding self-serve stations, restricting employee shared spaces, [and] rotating or staggering shifts, if feasible.”
Monitoring, though hard for customers to observe, is not impossible. For instance, the CDC said bars and restaurants should “develop and implement procedures to check for signs and symptoms of employees daily upon arrival”— so if a server runs in the front door and immediately gets to work, that could raise an eyebrow. The CDC repeatedly reinforces that sick employees, regardless of the illness, should stay home and that businesses should accommodate sick time through planning, communication and flexible policies.
Finally, the CDC told restaurants and bars to “regularly communicate and monitor developments with local authorities” and to “be ready to consult with the local health authorities if there are cases in the facility or an increase in cases in the local area.” So if a new spike occurs in an area, eating out may simply become riskier than it was before.
Much longer instructions on reopening the US have been in the works, but not officially released. The larger set of guidelines will give specifics on how to reopen a variety of organizations, restaurants and beyond.