DOH warns food businesses to comply with COVID-19 rules
Failure could mean red placard, closure
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.”