COVID-19 is the latest coronavirus that’s currently spreading across the globe. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that commonly circulate among humans, causing mild illnesses such as the common cold. COVID-19 is the latest strain that’s having a wide-ranging impact, readily spreading from person to person contact. Therefore, self-quarantine is currently the best preventative measure.  

The risk assessment is currently changing daily. Though many can catch this virus, there are some at a higher risk of more serious complications, including older adults and those who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart and lung disease, and diabetes. Though you may not fall under this high-risk population, COVID-19 is easy to catch and transmit to those who are. Therefore, precautionary measures are being mandated by many local and state governments, as well as recommended courses of action stemming from the federal level. These include limits to dining out, traveling, and attending large group gatherings.  

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current symptoms of COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, or have been in close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, or who has recently traveled from an area with an ongoing spread, the CDC recommends you stay home and contact your healthcare provider. 

In addition to quarantining, frequent and thorough handwashing is highly recommended to kill bacteria and slow the spread. You can view CDC-recommended handwashing practices in our Crash Course on Food Safety. 

Are We Legally Required to Close?

Many states are requiring restaurants to cease dine-in operations. As always, regardless of local, state, or federal mandate, the health and wellbeing of your staff, customers, and yourself should take priority. Many restaurants are opting to close regardless but are allowing for delivery and take out services to continue to drive revenue during this time. Double-check requirements on your state’s government website.  

Can I Apply for Financial Assistance for Myself, My Overhead, or My Employees?

Yes. The Small Business Administration has resources available to assist with finances. State and Federal officials are also working together to come up with a plan to help those forced out of work 

What Am I Legally Required to Do for Employees Taking Time Off?

State and federal officials are still working out how best to assist employees forced to take time off in light of ongoing events. The legality of taking care of employees is dependent on your state, but many states, such as Washington, have an Employment Security Department dedicated to providing resources to workers affected by this crisis. 

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor is working to provide updated information and resources to help employers and employees facing public health emergencies.  

Can the Coronavirus be Transferred Through Food?

According to the CDC, currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 through food. In general, this is due to poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, meaning there is likely a low risk of spread from food or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures. 

The important thing to remember as a foodservice provider is to follow proper hygienic measures before and after preparing food. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. In addition, be sure to wash your hands after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose, as well as going to the restroom. 

Are There Certain Foods I Should Avoid?

At the moment, there are no foods to necessarily avoid. Again, follow proper food safety measures before, during and after handling any food products.