Restaurants encouraged to follow CDC guidelines

OKEECHOBEE — With most of Florida now in the second phase of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s plan to reopen the state, some restaurants that had been closed for months have started to reopen. Others that offered takeout only are inviting customers to come inside to dine.

The governor’s executive order, which went into effect June 5, states: “All persons in Florida are encouraged to follow appropriate social distancing and safety protocols issued by the CDC and OSHA.” However, the order advises the direction to follow such protocols “is guidance and not enforceable under section 252.47 Florida Statues.”

The executive order allows restaurants to operate at 50% of their indoor capacity. Outdoor seating is permitted with the appropriate social distance. The executive order encourages restaurants to follow CDC guidelines, but does not legally require them to do so.

CDC recommends cloth face coverings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated recommendations for restaurants and bars on May 27. The CDC guidance is meant to supplement — not replace — state or local regulations.

The CDC advises: “The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” According to the CDC, the risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as follows:
• Lowest Risk: Food service limited to drive-thru, delivery, takeout and curbside pick up.
• More Risk: Drive-thru, delivery, takeout, and curbside pickup emphasized. On-site dining limited to outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
• Even More Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
• Highest Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity not reduced and tables not spaced at least 6 feet apart.

COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection, the CDC explains.

The CDC advises operators of restaurants and bars help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread by:
• Staying home when appropriate: “Actively encourage employees who are sick or have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisal, and ensure employees are aware of these policies. Employees should stay home if they have tested positive for or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. Employees who have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health.”

•Require frequent employee handwashing (e.g. before, during, and after preparing food; after touching garbage) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring to ensure adherence. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Require the use of cloth face coverings among all staff. Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Information should be provided to staff and students on proper use, removal and washing of cloth face coverings. Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks, respirators, or personal protective equipment.

• Post signs in highly visible locations (e.g., at entrances, in restrooms) that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs such as by properly washing hands and properly wearing a cloth face covering.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, cash registers, workstations, sink handles, bathroom stalls) at least daily, or as much as possible and as required by food safety requirements. Clean shared objects (e.g., payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders) between each use.

• Use disposable food service items (e.g., utensils, dishes, napkins, tablecloths).

For more information on recommendations for restaurants and bars, go online to

Eating in a restaurant is a choice. If a restaurant is not following the CDC guidelines, you can speak to the owner or manager about it and let them know your concerns. If you are not satisfied with their health and safety procedures, you can choose not to eat there.

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