COVID-19 Disinfectants for Contact Surfaces

By Andrea Moore, EHS 2

As food service establishments are reopening their dining areas to patrons, there have been questions as to what kind of disinfectants can be used for tables, countertops, and other commonly touched areas in a restaurant. Many restaurant owners and managers have expressed concerns about mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 by ensuring the cleaning products that are used in their facility to clean and disinfect common contact surfaces are effective against the virus.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the List N:  Disinfectants for Use Against COVID-19 that includes EPA registered surface disinfectants including wipes for contact surfaces only. Disinfectants kill germs on surfaces which can further lower the risk of spreading infections. The EPA expects products on this list to kill the virus because they demonstrate effectiveness against a harder to kill virus or another similar human coronavirus.   Hand sanitizers, antiseptic washes and antibacterial soaps are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, won’t be listed on the EPA list. However, if EPA-approved List N disinfectants are not accessible, unscented bleach can be used as an alternative disinfectant. Please keep in mind that you want to always read and follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use.  If wiping food contact surfaces, such as dining room tables, be sure to follow label instructions for use on food contact surfaces. 

The following are instructions for using bleach as an alternative disinfectant:

  • 1/3 cup of unscented bleach added to 1 gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning and disinfecting products because this can cause fumes that are very dangerous to breathe in.

Additionally, the links below have been provided for EPA- approved disinfectants and tips for using disinfectants safely and effectively:

EPA-approved disinfectants

Six Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use (PDF)

As we continue the fight against COVID-19, enhancing sanitation by disinfecting common surfaces regularly will help to prevent the spread of the virus. For example: Disinfect tables between diners, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops and commonly touched areas, and discard single-use items.

We appreciate your cooperation and diligence to maintain a safe and healthy environment for patrons during these uncertain times. We will get through this! Thank you for all that you do !

You can find additional resources anytime on the CDPH website or foodsafety.gov. As always, don’t hesitate to contact your inspector with any questions or concerns.

FREE COVID-19 testing is available – registration is required www.cdphcovid19testing.org

Special Serving Styles

By Idelia Ulmer, EHS4

Georgia’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service 511-6-1 allow for special options for serving food in restaurants.  This post helps to distinguish between some of the special options that are available.

Cafeteria-Style Buffet

All food is displayed, BUT food workers are responsible for serving the customers, handling the utensils, and ensuring proper distancing in lines.  Cafeteria style may be applied to Salad Bars, Dessert Bars, Cold and Hot Food Buffets, etc. provided that:

  • Sneeze guards/shields must be designed or modified to protect all food from customer exposure and direct access. If ends are not closed, shield angles must continue along all exposed sides (3-sides) with a height of at least 18 inches from counter height usually – without openings to prevent customer access.  Exception: Units may be in-line with other equipment to prevent (food) access from unshielded sides.
  • For serving food refills, servers must use new tableware (plates, bowls).

Traditional Buffet-Style

Buffets may be reopened for customer use if hand sanitizer is available at the buffet, sneeze guards are in place, customers socially distance while going down the line, and utensils are changed out regularly.

Hibachi Grill  

At table-side, food service employees grill food for immediate service to the customer. Limit the amount of food stored at hibachi grill to what is needed for service two one sitting of people. Returned and/or remaining ready-to-eat foods must be discarded.

Family-Style

A group of customers are seated at a table for one sitting.  Servers bring ready-to-eat food to the table in large serving dishes. Dishes are passed around for each person to serve their own plate. Remaining or returned food must be discarded. [Family-style self-service may have additional requirements and require health authority’s approval before facilities implement this serving style].

Important Reminders

All food service facilities must comply with Georgia Rules and Regulations Food Service 511-6-1.

Ensure that preventive measures to protect against the exposure and spread of COVID-19 among your patrons and workforce are in place. as required by Governor Kemp’s Executive Order.

Thank You for Going Above and Beyond!

By Casey Saenz, EHS3

I had just arrived at the office to do some paperwork, get my coffee, and made my rounds of saying ‘hello’ to my fellow coworkers.  A coworker and I were discussing the news and challenging times.  As I went back to my desk, my first thought was, “hmmm… I have noticed nothing but extra kindness, diligence and caring from some of my operators while in the field conducting inspections.  Here are two examples that I came across during my morning:  

First, I met with a pool company for the opening inspection of a neighborhood pool.  I was asking the pool operator about what kind of precautions they were taking to comply with the Governor’s current  Executive Order,  and I was amazed on how careful and detailed this company is being to protect the public health of swimmers and their employees.  This pool company is using a reservation system for their clients so that small groups are allotted 90 minutes at the pool.  The company has also bought sprayers that apply EPA registered disinfectant to all of the furniture, restrooms, and frequently touched surfaces after each group leaves. (Every 90 minutes, they are cleaning all of these surfaces).  They have also dedicated some of their staff to monitor the small groups and their adherence to the 90-minute time frame.  Even though this has been difficult for their staff, this pool operator said that “it doesn’t matter because we do not need people to get sick”.  

My other example is from an Italian restaurant that I went to during a morning field visit.  I was asking this person in charge how their restaurant is doing with all of the extra precautions being taken for the sake of public health.  He said that their main concern is to do whatever it takes to prevent his clients and staff from getting sick; and looking into his kitchen, and observing the employees, I believe his statement is true.  Although he could easily open his large dining room, he is not planning to do so until it is absolutely safe.  He said this has cut back on their revenue, but he also said that people are more important.  I have heard similar statements from many of my facilities.

So to my food service, swimming pool, and tourist accommodation operators that are going above and beyond for the sake of the health of the public, I and my fellow Environmental Health staff say Thank You!  We appreciate it!

Face Coverings Around Town!

Although the failure to wear face coverings is one of the most common COVID-19 Executive Order complaints we are receiving from the public, these Cobb and Douglas restaurants are sporting theirs! 

Some face coverings fit more comfortably than others, so finding the type that works best for you can help make wearing them a little easier.  If you’re having difficulty finding them, bandanas are acceptable for this use as well.  

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of those in the food service industry that are doing their part to protect their customers and their co-workers from COVID-19!

Show Us Your Face Coverings!

Thank you for sharing your photos in response to our FACE COVERINGS ARE “IN” THIS SEASON post.  If there are other owners/operators of food service facilities that would like us to post a photo of your team members wearing their face coverings, please email your photos to our Food Program Manager, Karen Gulley [Karen.Gulley@dph.ga.gov].  

The CDC provides Sew and No Sew Instructions on how to make your own masks if you are interested in doing so. 

Don’t forget to cover up and stay safe!

An Introduction to COVID-19 Contact Tracing

By Jordan Whiteside, Environmental Health Intern

In my role as an Environmental Health Intern with Cobb & Douglas Public Health, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the COVID-19 Case Investigation Team for the district as a contact tracer.

What is case investigation/contact tracing? 

Case Investigation is the identification of patients with a confirmed and potential diagnosis of COVID – 19.  Once a patient is identified the case investigator conducts an interview and records a patient’s symptoms, onset date, and people they may have been in close proximity with– AKA “contacts”. This is when contact tracing comes into play.

Contact tracing is the identification, monitoring, and support of persons who have come in contact with an infected person. During the interview contact tracers record a person’s date of exposure, symptoms, and whether they have been tested. Following the interview, high risk contacts will receive a quarantine date and daily texts to monitor symptoms.

Public health professionals perform case investigations and contact tracing to find connections between cases and help slow and prevent the spread of infectious diseases—In this case, COVID-19.  This is why it is important to identify the contacts of those diagnosed with COVID–19 as soon as possible.

If there is a report of a diagnosed food worker, it is highly recommended that the person-in-charge contact the health department of jurisdiction for guidance as to the next steps and to receive assistance assessing the risk of other food workers.   If this become a need, call 770-435-7815 (Cobb) or 770-920-7311 (Douglas).

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.