BOISE, Idaho — Not much has changed when it comes to restaurant health inspections during the coronavirus, but there are a few things that inspectors will be looking for once restaurants begin opening their dining areas on Saturday, May 16.
“We still check everything as far as the Idaho Food Code, but we do put more of an emphasis on employee illness policies due to the coronavirus changes,” said Tyler Jordan, Central District Health environmental specialist. “But basically the same principles are still in place.”
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Jordan said he regularly checks restaurants’ food temperatures, employee illness policies, sanitation requirements, and general cleanliness of the facility, but with Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Rebounds plan launching Stage Two on Saturday, allowing restaurants to open their dining areas, he will be paying attention to establishments’ cleaning rotations.
“We do recommend cleaning the highest traffic areas once an hour now, as well as menus. We’re really going to look at how the establishment is going to handle it, because each place isn’t necessarily similar,” he said. “It could come down to spacing the tables 6 to 10 feet apart. If that’s not possible, it could be only allowing 50% of the dining areas to be accessible, making sure waiting areas aren’t being used where people are congregating.”
The state requires each restaurant to submit a written plan if they plan on opening May 16.
“According the governor’s plan it is required for them to submit it,” Jordan said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen if an establishment doesn’t submit that. That is still something that’s up in the air that we can’t answer at this point.”
Central District Health does health inspections at restaurants and pools in Ada, Elmore, and Valley County, as well as Boise.
Jordan said these areas account for more than 2,500 places that serve food, but only 250 restaurants have submitted their written plans for reopening their dining areas to customers.
“We are getting more and more each day as we get closer,” he said. “They don’t have to necessarily get an approval back from us before opening on May 16, but they do need to submit it before then.”
Idaho Food Code does not currently require restaurant employees to wear masks, and only food-handlers must wear gloves, according to Jordan.
“The Idaho Food Code is going to be the same,” he said. “We’re just going to make sure that depending on the plans and COVID-19, we’re going to make sure that they have the educational information available for them and just help guide them as much as possible.”
Jordan added that Central District Health inspectors will also monitor social distancing rules in their future inspections once restaurants allow customers in their dining space.
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