DOH warns food busi­nesses to com­ply with COVID-19 rules

Fail­ure could mean red plac­ard, clo­sure

The Maui News - - News - The Maui News

Food es­tab­lish­ments will face pos­si­ble clo­sure if not fol­low­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules and other health and safety pro­to­cols re­lated to COVID-19, state Depart­ment of Health of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

Us­ing a color-coded plac­ard sys­tem, the DOH will is­sue red plac­ards to restau­rants, bars, mar­kets and other food ser­vice busi­nesses that re­ceive their sec­ond warn­ing of vi­o­la­tion.

“The depart­ment is tak­ing these steps now to en­force pre­ven­tive mea­sures that are known to be ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing the trans­mis­sion of the disease, es­pe­cially as we have seen a re­cent in­crease in the num­ber of COVID cases and ev­i­dence of com­mu­nity spread,” said Health Di­rec­tor Bruce An­der­son in a news re­lease Thurs­day. “Most food es­tab­lish­ments in Hawaii are con­sci­en­tious and try­ing their best to com­ply with health guid­ance.”

“Nev­er­the­less, we feel these steps are nec­es­sary to as­sure all restau­rants and other food es­tab­lish­ments are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to pro­tect the health of the pub­lic and their em­ploy­ees,” he said.

The state’s DOH Food Safety Branch will be­gin to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend the oper­a­tions of food es­tab­lish­ments that do not com­ply with phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, wear­ing cloth face masks and other re­quire­ments.

When an in­spec­tor dur­ing a rou­tine in­spec­tion sees a vi­o­la­tion or a cus­tomer com­plains, the DOH will is­sue a writ­ten warn­ing to the es­tab­lish­ment. The busi­ness will be ed­u­cated on the rules and in­formed that a sec­ond vi­o­la­tion will re­sult in is­suance of a red plac­ard for cre­at­ing a health haz­ard.

Un­like the color-coded sys­tem for sanitation and safe food-han­dling, there is no yel­low plac­ard.

The is­suance of the red plac­ard will re­sult in im­me­di­ate clo­sure of the es­tab­lish­ment with a pub­lic an­nounce­ment. The food es­tab­lish­ment may re­quest a rein­spec­tion and re­view to safely re­sume their oper­a­tions.

“As Hawaii re­opens and moves to­ward eco­nomic recovery, no one wants to see a restau­rant tem­po­rar­ily close and miss out on op­por­tu­ni­ties to serve cus­tomers,” said Peter Oshiro, chief of DOH’s Food Safety Branch. “We rec­og­nize many Hawaii food es­tab­lish­ment op­er­a­tors are do­ing their best to pro­tect the health of their em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers, and we need all op­er­a­tors to com­ply with the guid­ance and take it se­ri­ously.”

The DOH is­sued rules for restau­rants, mar­kets and food man­u­fac­tur­ers on re­open­ing in late May to min­i­mize risk and com­bat the spread of COVID19 be­tween em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers.

The strict enforcemen­t also en­ables the depart­ment to ef­fec­tively re­spond to con­sumer com­plaints about non­com­pli­ant food es­tab­lish­ments and en­hances the state’s readi­ness to im­ple­ment a pre­travel test­ing pro­gram on Aug. 1, ac­cord­ing to the news re­lease.

Restau­rants and bars have been shown to have a higher trans­mis­sion rate of COVID19 be­cause of over­crowd­ing, the DOH said.

So­cial dis­tanc­ing among cus­tomers is of­ten­times chal­leng­ing when ine­bri­ated or when speak­ing loudly in very close prox­im­ity to each other be­cause of am­pli­fied mu­sic or noise.

“Food es­tab­lish­ments play an im­por­tant role in our econ­omy and in pub­lic health,” Oshiro said. “Restau­rants saw the value of our color-coded plac­ards for com­pli­ance with food safety reg­u­la­tions, and we be­lieve this more strin­gent sys­tem will en­cour­age food es­tab­lish­ments to rise to the new chal­lenge to pro­tect their bot­tom line while also pro­tect­ing the pub­lic’s health.”

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