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!

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.

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.

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.

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