Face Coverings Are “In” This Season!

Memorial Day Weekend is here!  As more persons are getting out and making their way to food service facilities, there is an increased chance of exposure to COVID-19 by a person that might not even have symptoms of this illness.  And the best way to prevent this from happening is by wearing face coverings.

Individuals are being creative in regard to the face coverings they choose to wear— they’re not only adding a degree of protection, but they’re also having some fun while doing it.  Look around!  Face coverings range from different colored bandanas to an array of masks– from solid colors to super heroes!   Face coverings make a difference– not just to protect others but ourselves as well.

If you would like to share a photo of you or your team while wearing face coverings, please send it to our Food Program Manager [Karen.Gulley@dph.ga.gov] anytime during the next couple of weeks and we would be glad to share your photo on our Food Safety blog.

Hope you all have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

Updated Food Service Reopening Guidance Tools Are Now Available!

As more food service operations are opening their dining rooms, operators are reminded of the need to comply with the requirements found in Governor Kemp’s Executive Order from May 12, 2020 and to stay alert for any additional updates.  The Georgia Department of Public Health has updated its  COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS WITH DINING ROOM SEATING  to reflect updates in the Executive Order.   

To assist operators with their plans for compliance, the National Restaurant Association has released its Reopening Guidelines training video as the 3rd tool in its series of free COVID-19 response videos for food service facilities. All three training videos are available in English and Spanish and are presented via ServSafe, the organization’s educational arm.  The Reopening Guidelines presents an overview of important actions that help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by applying new sanitation and disinfecting practices, and recognizing new social distancing requirements that are key components to safely reopening food service operations.

Updated Isolation Period for Workers with COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control has updated its recommended time required for workers to return to work after the onset of symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.  The time period has changed from 7 days to 10 days. 

As a result, the Georgia Department of Public Health has updated their COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS WITH DINING ROOM SEATING to reflect this change.  Now it states that “An employee with known or suspected COVID-19 must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to self-isolate for at least ten (10) days after symptom onset and end isolation only after symptoms have improved and the employee has been fever-free and/or symptom-free for three (3) consecutive days without medication before returning to work.” 

Please replace the previous guidance document with this updated version.

You’re Open, But Are You In Compliance?

We have seen an increase in reports of non-compliance as restaurants have begun reopening their dining rooms, as allowed by Governor Kemp’s Executive Order from April 23, 2020 if specific measures were taken to ensure customer and employee safety.   To assist with compliance, Columbia County government has produced a poster that summarizes the thirty-nine requirements specified in the Executive Order.  In addition, the Georgia Department of Public Health has provided COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants with Dining Room Seating.  Keep in mind that ALL food service employees are required to wear face coverings regardless of whether in-house dining is offered or not.  Face coverings include– but are not limited to– cloth face masks and bandanas. 

Upon investigation by our staff, non-compliant facilities will receive a Notice of Violation that will include instructions for achieving compliance.  Continued violation of the Executive Order will prompt contact with local law enforcement to further address the issue. 

Please contact your local Environmental Health Office if you have questions about what is needed to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cobb Environmental Health: 770-435-7815

Douglas Environmental Health 770-920-7311.

Guidance Document Now Available for Restaurant Dining Rooms

The Georgia Department of Public Health has issued a guidance document to assist restaurant operators that would like to reopen their dining rooms to their customers.

If you have reopened your dining room or are contemplating doing so and have questions related to this or other aspects of your operation, please feel free to contact your local Environmental Health office (Cobb: (770) 435-7815; Douglas: (770) 920-7311) for assistance.

Free COVID-19 Testing Offered by Cobb & Douglas Public Health

Cobb & Douglas Public Health is now offering free COVID-19 testing for anyone desiring a test, including all food service employees and operators. No symptoms or previous exposure is required to be eligible for testing.

If you would like to schedule a test, register online at www.cdphcovid19testing.org to be notified of a time to come in for an appointment at one of our drive-thru testing sites.   IMPORTANT:  Pre-registration and appointment confirmation is required to gain entry to the testing site.

Currently, CDPH has testing sites located at Jim Miller Park in Cobb County and at Hunter Park in Douglas County.

Hours of operation for both sites are: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – Noon.

If additional assistance is needed,  please call 770-514-2300.

Also, please note the provisions of Governor Kemp’s most recent Executive Order. Specific guidance for the food service industry begins on Page 6.

Staying on Top of Key Drop Deliveries!

By Addie Zuniga, EHS2

An important duty of the person-in-charge (PIC) is to ensure the integrity and proper sourcing of food products received. This includes reviewing invoices, examining packaging, and verifying proper internal temperatures of Time-Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods as it comes into the facility. It’s the duty of the PIC to make sure packages are examined at the time of receipt, in order to reject any items that may appear damaged or tampered with, or TCS foods that are outside the safe temperature range.  But what about key drop deliveries?

Many food distributers run overnight routes, and this allows facilities the option of overnight deliveries. This is known as a “key drop delivery” – when food deliveries are dropped off in a kitchen, often inside a walk-in cooler, while the business is closed. This can be a convenient set-up, but how would the PIC maintain active managerial control over these deliveries when employees may not arrive at the facility for several hours after the truck has left?  The PIC must designate someone to look for damaged packaging or recalled products upon arrival, allowing those to be set aside for return and not served. However, temperature abuse can be hard to identify, especially if the TCS foods have already been in a walk-in cooler for a long period of time since delivery.  For example, there would be no way for the PIC to know if the refrigeration in the delivery truck had failed and that the TCS foods were transported for several hours in the temperature danger zone overnight, thereby posing a significant food safety risk. Therefore, it is not enough that a PIC simply verify internal temperatures of TCS foods when they arrive at the facility after a key drop delivery.

If a facility is considering key drop delivery, they must establish procedures with the distribution company, that the delivery drivers would be required to follow. There should be a written agreement in which the drivers are tasked with verifying and documenting the internal temperatures of a sample of TCS foods at the time of delivery, for the PIC to review. This is most often achieved by the driver noting the temperatures of various items on the invoice which is then left behind with the delivery.  These procedures may vary, but they should be detailed in the agreement. The PIC should maintain the right to reject these products, even after the driver has left, if they are not satisfied with documented temperatures or other conditions. This policy provides the PIC with the information they need to maintain managerial control over these products, and to know that they are safe for service.

This contract and procedure between the facility and the distributor must be approved by the health authority prior to key drop deliveries being implemented. The PIC should also keep a copy of the signed contract, as well as a recent sample of documented delivery temperatures, onsite for review during each health inspection. This documentation indicates to the health inspector that the PIC is maintaining active managerial control, and that foods are arriving safely and from approved sources.  If you are interested in key drop deliveries, please review the Key Drop Deliveries guidance document produced by Georgia Department of Public Health and our website for additional information.