As restaurants reopen for indoor dining, everyone involved has (we’d hope?!) done their due diligence to protect staff and guests by maintaining six feet between tables, limiting party sizes, requiring reservations, and requiring all individuals to wear masks.
That said, the coronavirus is a wicked, fickle mistress. Riding air currents on actual laughter, she lingers on both hard surfaces and hugs… or, so we think anyway? Information changes regularly (and despite all the reading we're doing, we still aren't epidemiologists).
This complex state of affairs is why the state allowed businesses who sell food and beverages on-site (bars, restaurants, bakeries, breweries, wineries, etc.) to reopen to customers only if they agree to develop and implement a complex COVID-19 “preparedness plan” by June 29, 2020. Detailed in these plans are protective measures ranging from duh-level suggestions, to many that are, uh, mighty specific.
To aid in this pursuit, the Minnesota Department of Health released a handy-dandy checklist about sanitation and preparedness, entitled “Industry Guidance for Safely Reopening: Restaurants & Bars.” It is eight pages long.
We’ve pulled some of the more weed-y highlights below:
- Consider covering switches/devices with a poly-covering that allows the user to manipulate the device without touching the switch, and change out the poly-covering frequently. Electronic devices must be sanitized only when disconnected from the power-source, and sanitized in accordance with the listing/labeling requirements. (Under: Workplace cleaning and disinfecting protocols)
- Maintain relative humidity levels of RH 40-60 percent. (Under: Workplace building and ventilation protocols)
- Community drinking stations and water-fountains should not be available for use. Touchless water-filling stations may still be provided. (Under: Worker hygiene and source controls)
- Bands are allowed but must maintain social distancing. Dancing is not permitted. (Additional protections and protocol for managing occupancy)
- Minimize air-flow from blowing across people. (Under: Workplace building and ventilation protocols)
- Instruct servers to take orders from behind the customer and remind customers to keep facing forward. (Under: Additional protections and protocols specific to bars, restaurants and other retail food settings)
- Cloth face coverings are NOT a substitute for maintaining a physical distance of 6-feet from other people. (Under: What clients and customers can do to minimize the transmission) [Editor’s note: Emphasis theirs]
The takeaway from all this? Unless you own a bar, restaurant, brewery, winery, farmers market, etc.… This is: out of your control, but it's complex.
The best we can do as patrons* is to wear an itchy, uncomfortable, necessary mask, maintain the proper distance of six-plus feet from other germ-bombs, and engage in a friendly, self-set chanllenge to wash/sanitize our hands more than our servers.** Oh, and embrace reality that the staff is risking their health so that you can have a Normal Time, and think of all the aforementioned actions as a kindness competition that you really, really want to win not only for the sake of the person bringing you that drink/snack, but also everyone you know and love (or whom you've never met) nowhere near that table, too.
*If you're even planning to dine out at restaurants right now, that is.
**Definitely stay home if you’re exhibiting even the tiniest inklings or signs of sickness.