Wednesday, May 13, 2020

County Adopts New Health Code Standards In Response to Bars and Restaurants Reopening

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 2:12 PM

In a 3-2 vote, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved to immediately update the county's health code to include 15 of the 17 new guidelines recommended by the Pima County Health Department during today's emergency meeting. Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against updating the health code.

"Restaurants and other industries have suffered terribly, have been devastated for many weeks now," Christy said. "Finally, they're open by the governor and in Pima County the first thing that hits these suffering businesses are burdensome regulations and the threat of fines. Does this say Pima County is open for business?"

The health department issued the new guidelines to help combat the spread of COVID-19 as bars and restaurants reopen to dine-in service on May 11. Christy's main beef with these new guidelines vetted by the county's Bars and Restaurant Task Force as a part of the Back To Business initiative is that Arizona Restaurant Association didn't get a chance to review the proposed regulations before the board voted today, although Arizona Restaurant Association Chief Operating Officer Dan Bogert is a member of the Bars and Restaurant Task Force.

"The task force that was created by the Back to Business in Pima County never had the opportunity to hear objections from I think the most significant entity, the Arizona Restaurant Association," Christy said. "Why are we moving so fast without input from such significant entities?"

Among the new protective measures the ARA, Christy, and Miller take issue with is health and wellness checks of all vendors and people making third-party deliveries before coming on-premise or starting a shift. 

"This one is very troublesome. I think it really is an overstep requiring (businesses) to do that for deliveries," Miller said. " I think the point (the ATA) made is, 'This is a violation. We're not medical workers so why should we be required to test everybody else's employees?'"

Christy asked for a "friendly amendment" to hold the vote until their regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday. He would like to see business owners implement the changes without fear of repercussions if not followed perfectly.

"The county assumes right off the bat that business will do the wrong thing, that business can't be trusted," Christy said. "Governments need to get out of the way and allow businesses to do what they do best and that is to adopt new process changes."

Chairman Ramon Valadez declined Christy's request, saying the county did not have the time to wait because the county's new guidelines needed to be updated immediately to keep customers safe and build consumer confidence.

"Look, these conditions are not meant to keep restaurants out of business. The truth is the intent of this is when there are patrons in these restaurants they can feel certain that we are ensuring their safety as best as we can," Valadez said. "This is not a disease that discriminates. This is not a disease that is gone. The truth is we have a responsibility."

The Protective Measures are:

Minimum Employee, Vendor, Delivery Service and Patron health and wellness measures:

-Wellness/symptom checks, including temperature checks for all restaurant personnel, vendors, contractors, third party delivery service workers, etc. as they arrive on-premises and before opening of a restaurant.

-Cloth masks and gloves and frequent handwashing is required for all servers and restaurant personnel (except gloves not required for servers if hands are sanitized between servings).

-Any patron exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 is prohibited from entering the facility.

Minimum restaurant operation measures:

-Physical and electronic signage posting at the restaurant entrance of public health advisories prohibiting individuals who are symptomatic from entering the premises.

-Indoor occupancy limited to 50 percent or lower.

-Service by take out, reservation or call ahead seating only, including text and/or telephone notification of patrons requesting restaurant in-person service, allowing restaurant patrons to physical distance until called for service.

-Physical distancing of six feet minimum between tables.

-Clearly marked six-foot spacing marks throughout the restaurant, along entrances, hallways, restrooms and any other location within a restaurant.

-Parties no larger than 10 allowed per table and bar top seating is not allowed.

-Menus must be in a format that does not promote potential virus transmission e.g. menu boards, single-use menus.

-Elimination of self-service stations including salad bars, buffets, soda refill stations, and table-side food preparation.

-Expansion of outdoor service areas to increase physical distancing standards.

-Hand sanitizers available at entrances to the facility, restrooms and in employee work areas.

-Sanitize customer areas after each sitting with EPA-registered disinfectant, including but not limited to: Tables, Tablecloths, Chairs/booth seats, Table-top condiments and condiment holders.

-Post documentation cleaning logs online and at the entrance documenting cleaning of all public areas (inclusive of countertops, door handles, waiting areas, etc.) at least every two to three hours.

Additional measures to consider:

-Restaurant personnel should have a national certification in food safety and handling, as well as specific training in the prevention of COVID-19.

-Implement touchless payment methods.


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