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Reopening and Recommissioning Your Premises During The COVID-19 Era

July 2020

After being locked down and unable to operate at normal capacity, restaurants across the country are finding that reopening is not as simple as turning on the lights and firing up the grills. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our federal, state, and local governments have enacted a panoply of statutes, regulations, and guidelines that directly impact your business and livelihood. To ensure your compliance with these requirements, we strongly recommend that you review any and all statutes, regulations, and guidelines that will impact your business during these unique times. It is also important to review CDC and OSHA guidelines and comply with any directive that has been implemented by your local health department.

After you have reviewed the substantive changes to the legal landscape that has seemingly changed overnight, you are ready to devise an action plan that will allow you to reopen your business and ensure the safety of your employees and future guests. Additionally, it is critical to document any measures that you have taken to protect your employees and guests from COVID-19. In the event of a claim, it is necessary to have this information readily available.

Before opening, you should inspect and fully operate your ventilation and water systems approximately twenty-four hours before allowing guests to enter the premises. While testing these systems, you are not only checking to make sure that they are in working order, but are also checking to see if any mold has developed during the closure. Purging and flushing your waterlines will eliminate the presence of stagnant water, which is a breeding ground for legionella, that may have accumulated during the closure. After your systems have been flushed and are operational, you should clean your entire restaurant with a focus on high-contact areas. All surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized with a cleaning agent that is approved on the EPA’s N-List, which are proven to degrade bacteria and viruses, such as COVID-19.

Once you are open, all high-contact surfaces will need to be cleaned at least three to four times per day. It is also recommended that you post signage in your restaurant warning of the virus. Your signage should indicate that individuals who are experiencing symptoms should refrain from entering the premises. This includes any employees who may be ill or exhibiting symptoms. Please make sure your employees are aware that if they have symptoms, then they should not be working on the premises.

After you have inspected, flushed, and operated your systems, and cleaned your premises, it is strongly recommended that you implement policies and procedures that are geared towards protecting your employees and guests from COVID-19. At this time, it is highly recommended that all employees wear facial coverings during their shifts. While N-95 masks offer some of the best protection, cloth masks also provide adequate protection. To promote social distancing, you should place six feet of distance between all tables and cooking stations. The construction of sneeze guards and plexiglass barriers at checkout areas and hostess stations will also assist in limiting unnecessary exposure between guests and employees. It is recommended that restaurants use disposable menus and condiments to eliminate exposure from previous guests. Finally, all employees should continue to regularly wash and sanitize their hands throughout the duration of their shifts. 

As you are well aware, keeping up-to-date on the news and changing developments with regard to government guidelines and requirements is essential during these uncertain times. Important developments are occurring daily, so it is necessary to keep abreast of these changes. The safety of your employees and guests could be influenced by the precautions you have taken in reopening your establishment.

While this article is not intended to be an exhaustive list of protective measures, we hope that you consider these options as you move forward with reopening your establishment to the public. Illinois Casualty Company wishes you the best of luck during these uncertain times. We strongly value our relationship with our customers and partners and look forward to serving you in the future.

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