The State Of New York In State Of Perplexity Over COVID Situation
New York restaurant owners and employees are finding themselves in a state of perplexity and uncertainty over what to do in the difficult situation that is the raging Omicron variant.
This quandary has erupted following the lack of hard rules regarding COVID-positive employees and unemployment and the choice for restaurant owners to close establishments or not due to rising statistics. Now, it’s a case of safety versus finances.
While restaurant owners and employees find themselves not yet agree on the answers and solutions to the quandary, what can be agreed upon is the health and safety precautions that should be taken to avoid further difficult situations arising. These refer to the claiming for unemployment and closing restaurant doors.
To Close Or Not To Close, Now A COVID Question
In recent times, state-issued restaurant closures were defined as prohibitions on restaurants operating or limiting service to takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery. Allowing restaurants to provide indoor or outdoor on-premises dining was defined as the state lifting a state-issued restaurant closure. This, according to the CDC.
Following this reopening of on-premises dining at restaurants, a known risk factor associated with COVID, New York restaurants and employees is finding themselves seeking answers and guidance on the way forward.
This need has escalated with rising infections in the state, and the state is headed towards a permanent Open Restaurants program.
Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal a high community transmission, a total of 206,986 COVID cases, and 556 deaths. When it comes to population vaccinations, 77.5% of the population is vaccinated.
Best Practices For Restaurant Owners And Employees
According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, when it comes to best practices in restaurants, the following applies:
- Employers: Pre-screen (e.g., take temperature and assess symptoms prior to starting work).
- Employers: Disinfect and clean workspaces and equipment, and consider more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces.
- Employees: Regularly self-monitoring through assessing COVID symptoms
- Employees and customers: Wear a mask or face covering at all times
- Employees: Practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet from other people whenever possible.
- Employees: Effective hand hygiene needs to be performed including washing hands with soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Employees: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and the using of gloves to avoid direct bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.
- Customers: Maintain good infection control and social distancing
- Employers: Discontinue high-risk operations, such as salad bars, buffets, and beverage service stations requiring that customers use common utensils or dispensers.
- Employers: Finding ways to encourage spacing between customers while in line for service or check out in accordance with the applicable State or local requirements.
These measures are effective in mitigating the spread of COVID and helping employees, employers, and customers to navigate the COVID minefield within restaurants. Adherence to these practices will also help restaurant employees to avoid having to claim unemployment and sick leave.
In The Case That A Restaurant Employee Tests Positive For COVID
- Instruct employees with symptoms associated with COVID to report them to their supervisors. Instruct sick employees to stay home and to follow the CDC’s guidelines. Also, instruct them to consult with the local health department for additional guidance.
- If an employee is sick at work, send them home immediately. Clean and disinfect surfaces in their workspace. Others at the facility with close contact with the employee during this time should be considered exposed.
- Instruct employees who are well, but know they have been exposed to COVID, to notify their supervisor and follow CDC-recommended precautions.
- Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID in the workplace if an employee is confirmed to have COVID while maintaining confidentiality.
What Is To Come Of The Quandary?
The future of dining out for guests, restaurant owners, and employees is uncertain. So too are the current questions on everyone’s lips: Will customers want to dine indoors during yet another Omicron surge? Will vaccination requirements change, and if they do, how will guests react? Will restaurant owners be forced to close and employees left facing unemployment?
While the future is uncertain, what is certain is that all customers, restaurant owners, and employers must do everything in their power to uphold health and safety measures at all times.