In D.C., restaurant operators have no idea what to do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 (boldface mine):
If you follow local restaurants on social media, you’ll notice messages on trend with the stats: More employees are testing positive. Tweets and Instagrams typically outline safety measures and declare that the business is temporarily closed, often “out of an abundance of caution.” Such transparency is at the discretion of owners, as is how long they choose to cease operations—if they do at all—and what safety measures they take before reopening. The possibility of closing and reopening, only to close again when another employee falls ill, is a lingering threat to individual operations and the industry as a whole.
A representative from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), which claims more than 1,000 members in the Washington area, says the organization doesn’t currently have protocols available for what restaurants should do when employees fall ill. They say they’re currently working with the DC Department of Health on guidelines. There is currently no evidence that Covid-19 can be spread through food or packaging, though the lack of oversight is still surprising. The DC Health Department is not responsible for inspecting or closing food businesses that report Covid illness, according to a spokesperson. Nor are businesses required to report positive cases (though healthcare clinicians must do so).
The restaurateurs with whom Washingtonian spoke say they consulted a hodgepodge of websites for help, including the National Restaurant Association and CDC as well as the District’s Covid response page. Some called industry colleagues for advice, while others asked doctor friends. All expressed frustration at an overall lack of guidance and clarity. Their actions—all trying to protect their staff, customers, and business—vary. Staff testing paid by employers, regular temperature checks, and deep-cleaning have become commonplace. Brandwein’s businesses reopen Friday with even stricter, self-imposted safety policies, including hand washing every 30 minutes, hourly cleaning, and twice-daily temperature checks for staff.
Despite all of the White House advisory committees, as well as state and local task forces, there’s very little actual guidance–and when the CDC recently tried to release specific, concrete proposals, the Trump administration axed them. In D.C., as best as I can tell, restaurant employees are not even required to wear masks (most are though).
This, among many other things, should have been done while we were (are) under stay-at-home. We didn’t, and now businesses are going to have to wing it. This is horrible governance and it’s going to kill people.