Free Food Handler and COVID-19 Takeout/Delivery Training from ServSafe

ServSafe is currently offering COVID-19 themed food takeout and delivery training at no cost to assist those that have shifted to this service as a result of this ongoing outbreak. Additionally, ServSafe is offering free Food Handler training through May 31, 2020. Click on the following link to take advantage of these free training opportunities:

https://www.servsafe.com/Landing-Pages/Free-Courses

COVID-19 Executive Orders and Emergency Declarations Issued for Georgia, Counties, and Municipalities

The Georgia Department of Public Health has updated its COVID-19 Guidance – Restaurants and Food Service.   This update reflects the conditions of the  Executive Order issued by Governor Kemp on March 23, 2020  in regard to COVID-19 response and protection.   Throughout the state of Georgia, the Governor’s Executive Order bans public gatherings of more than 10 persons and ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs.  As defined by OCGA Code Section 3-1-2(2.1), “bar” refers to any premises at which a retailer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages derives 75 percent or more total annual gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises.  

Also, Cobb County, Douglas County and municipal governments, including Acworth, Austell, Douglasville, Kennesaw, Marietta, Powder Springs, and Smyrna, have each issued Executive Orders/Declarations of Emergency requiring that restaurant dining rooms be closed. However, restaurants may still sell food by way of take-out, drive-thru, and delivery service.  Keep in mind the need to maintain 6 ft clearance between customers when they place orders and wait for pick-ups.  Operators may want to post signage and visual reminders as to the need to maintain appropriate distance between individuals (such as colored tape on the floor marking spots for standing).  To help ensure distancing, some restaurants are having the customers wait in their cars until their orders are ready.  

Please contact our Environmental Health offices if you have any questions.  For Cobb County, call 770-435-7815 and for Douglas County call 770-920-7311

Governor Kemp Issues COVID-19 Executive Order Affecting Restaurants and Bars

On March 23, 2020, Governor Kemp issued an executive order for the entire state that bans public gatherings of 10 or more persons and ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs (as defined by Code Section 3-1-2(2.1)).  Restaurants that are not able to maintain customers at a personal distance of 6 feet apart are to close, but they may continue to provide drive-thru and takeout-only service if that option is available.  In addition, the “medically fragile”—those more susceptible to the virus due to medical conditions, such as those in long-term facilities–are ordered to shelter in place.  This order goes into effect at noon on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and is scheduled to end on Monday, April 6, 2020.  

Test Your Employee Health Knowledge!

By Kiah Munroe, MES, EHS3

Do you believe that you have a good understanding of employee health requirements?  Test your knowledge by completing our Employee Health Crossword Puzzle and comparing your responses to the Answer Key.

If you would like to clear the contents and try again, just press the reset button provided.

Social Distancing and Restaurants

Social distancing, as defined by CDC, is the “remaining out of congregate settings ”—which would be an environment in which a number of people gather for a period of time— “and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”   The CDC is highly encouraging “social distancing” to help minimize the spread of coronavirus-19 and the guidance advises that gatherings of 50 or more people be postponed throughout the United States.  The guidance does not apply to organizations like restaurants and other day-to-day business operations; however, states and municipalities can impose limits themselves.  As of this date, Governor Kemp has not stated that Georgia restaurants must close their dining rooms, but to encourage effective social distancing, it is strongly recommended that restaurants only offer take-out and/or drive-thru service.  If the dining area does remain open, it is recommended that customers be seated as far apart as possible. And if food is served from a buffet, it is recommended that the buffet be well-monitored, and that the food is served directly to customers by restaurant staff. 

Also check out ServSafe’s Coronavirus: What Can You Do? guide, which offers coronavirus information tailored for the food service industry. Coronavirus related information updates often as more is learned about this illness, so please routinely check other resources like the CDC’s and CDPH’s dedicated coronavirus webpages for updates.

Additionally, the National Restaurant Association and the Georgia Restaurant Association are offering dedicated COVID-19 webpages that offer resources geared toward the food service industry, including links for food donation and mental health organizations.

Virus Related Food Safety Resources

We recognize that many food service operators are trying to decide whether they should continue operating during this time and, if so, how they should move forward.  Some have made modifications, such as closing their dining rooms and offering take-out and drive-through service only.  Some buffets that are normally self-service are being manned by facility staff.  If you choose to continue to operate, please view the guidance that is posted on the Cobb & Douglas Public Health website page entitled Food Safety: Stop The Spread Of Viruses (Including Coronavirus).

The Georgia Department of Public Health has also provided COVID-19 Guidance – Restaurants & Food ServiceEach resource contains valuable information that includes links to handouts and other resources available for your use.

Additionally, the National Restaurant Association and the Georgia Restaurant Association are offering dedicated COVID-19 webpages that offer resources geared toward the food service industry, including links for food donation and mental health organizations.

Please continue to stay informed of local county and municipal direction along with checking the CDPH website and Food Safety blog for updates.  To follow our Food Safety blog and receive notifications of new posts, just enter your email address while on the site and accept the return email.

Thank you for your continued efforts to promote food safety—and best wishes to each of you.

Purchasing Food for Emergency Situations

In light of advisories to limit time in public places, many are stocking up on food and supplies.   The University of Georgia’s Family and Consumer Sciences Specialist has compiled a good guide to assist consumers in purchasing food for short term emergencies.  Preparing an Emergency Food Supply, Short Term Food Storage includes “what and how much” to purchase along with safe storage information.    

Coronavirus Webinar Update

Thanks to our readers, we were notified that the link we provided for the National Restaurant Association’s Preparing for Coronavirus: Steps for Foodservice and Restaurant Readiness was a single use link. Fortunately, this webinar is still available for on-demand viewing once registration is completed at the following link: https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=reg20.jsp&referrer=&eventid=2216823&sessionid=1&key=50D3E4DFAC40026D6518A91355C476F9&regTag=&sourcepage=register

The National Restaurant Association is also curating coronavirus virus related information targeted to those in the food service industry that can be found here: https://restaurant.org/Manage-My-Restaurant/Business-Operations/preparedness/Covid19

Coronavirus Restaurant Readiness Webinar

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) will be providing Preparing for the Coronavirus: Steps for Foodservice and Restaurant Readiness, an informational webinar especially planned for the Food Service Industry, on March 10th, at 2:00 PM EST.   To register for the webinar and/or to access the NRA’s Coronavirus Information and Resource page click here.