DOH Issues Guidance to Eateries, Food Markets as State Reopens

May 23, 2020, 7:30 AM HST (Updated May 22, 2020, 5:27 PM)
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Hawai‘i restaurants are gradually reopening after the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic forced establishments to close dine-in services for the past two months.

On Friday, the Hawai‘i Department of Health issued recommendations for Hawai‘i’s food sector to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to employees and customers. The guidance aligns with all existing food safety regulations and supports ongoing compliance with social distancing requirements.

The guidance also aligns with Gov. David Ige’s eighth supplementary proclamation in response to the current emergency issued May 18, which focuses on the state’s multi-phased roadmap to recovery and resilience.

“As we move from reopening to recovery, safe practices in the foodservice industry play a vital role in the reopening and rebuilding of our local economy, “said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “We are also asking customers to do their part by following the guidance to support our restaurants and help ensure they can continue to stay open.”

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Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of environmental health, who oversees the area of food safety, said during this initial recovery stage, restaurants are urged to act with care and continue to meticulously follow safe practices.

“The Department of Health encourages food operators to promote good hygiene practices by ensuring adequate supplies of soap, individual disposable towels, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for employees and customers,” Kawaoka said. “Any employee who exhibits signs of illness should not be allowed to report to work.”

At a minimum, customers are required to wear a cloth face covering when moving through a food establishment or while waiting for a pick-up order, and their masks may be removed only while eating.

In addition, the Department of Health issued the following additional stipulations for dine-in service:

  • No more than 50% or half of the total seating capacity should be available for dining-in use.
  • Dining tables at least six feet apart for indoors and outdoors. (Outdoor seating does not count toward the total seating capacity.)
  • Restaurants are encouraged to require reservations for dine-in service for greater control of customer volume.
  • Consider allowing customers to pre-order while making reservations to decrease the length of time they are in the establishment.
  • Maximum of six customers, not living in the same household, per group per table, with a maximum of 10 customers, living in the same household, per group per table.
  • No self-service salad bar or buffet.
  • Restaurants should also post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 will be permitted in the restaurant.

Kawaoka said that as the state moves toward the next phase of recovery, the health department plans to increase the recommended dining capacity for restaurants to 75% of total seating capacity while still keeping dining tables at least six feet apart.

The Department of Health also issued guidance for retail food markets, limiting the number of people in a facility up to 50% of fire code occupancy and maintaining a minimum of six feet between individuals. In the next phase, the recommended number of people in a retail food market increases to up to 75% of fire code occupancy, while continuing to maintain a minimum of six feet between individuals.

Restaurants offering dine-in service, retail food markets, and food processors and manufacturers are urged to identify a workplace coordinator to be responsible for COVID-19 assessment and control planning, which includes the use of face masks by employees, screening of workers, frequent handwashing, cleaning and disinfection procedures, and display of clear signage to remind employees and customers to adhere to all safety policies in place.

The health department will continuously monitor and evaluate conditions, and determine whether to expand reopening guidance or return to restrictions based on disease activity and the preparedness of our response system to manage any resurgence of positive cases.

For a complete list of requirements for restaurants, retail food markets and food processors and manufacturers in the State Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience: Guidance for Reopening the Food Service Sector (PDF), DOH Food Safety Branch: health.hawaii.gov/san/, and DOH Food and Drug Branch: health.hawaii.gov/food-drug.

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