AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin Health Department has introduced new and stricter rules for food establishments and restaurants to provide more signage and hygiene options in the face of increasing concerns about the coronavirus.
The emergency rules were introduced on March 13th and remain in effect until July 12th, 2020 unless withdrawn or extended by the city administrator.
Health Department officials announced the rules just days before ordering all restaurant areas in Austin and Travis County for six weeks on Tuesday. The restaurants continue to serve takeaway, drive-through, and delivery meals.
These are the new rules:
- A license holder or person in charge of a food company must display the “Help Prevent Disease” sign provided by Austin Public Health.
- A license holder or a person responsible for a food business must provide hand sanitiser with a minimum alcohol content of 60% to the public and customers.
- A license holder or a person responsible for a food business must disinfect and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and non-food contact surfaces of equipment of the company at least once an hour.
- A food business must adopt and implement a policy that provides for the immediate exclusion of grocers from duties if they develop a fever of 100.4 ° F or higher during their shift.
The city could suspend approval of a food company if it finds that new regulations are not being followed and are posing a public health risk.
The mandate news comes in response to heightened concerns over the transmission of COVID-19, a new virus that has spread around the world this year and has been classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. As of Tuesday afternoon, 10 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the Austin area.
Jen Samp, a spokesman for the Austin Public Health Department, said the food facility’s mandate is enforced through sample checks that are conducted during regular inspections. She didn’t know if the frequency of inspections would increase, but the health department already has strict restaurant hygiene and inspection processes in place, she said.
“We have a lot of inspections,” said Samp. “This would be a little on top of what they are already doing.”
Food establishments are inspected twice a year, according to the city’s website, and the results published online. The city carried out 8,853 inspections in 2019, according to the city.
The Ministry of Health has been monitoring developments in the spread of the virus and has been working with the Ministry of State Health Services and Centers for Disease Control to control the transmission of the disease on the ground.
On March 11, the Department of Health issued new and stricter rules for anyone entering a long-term living facility, which includes nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The rules require that almost everyone, including nurses, doctors, visitors, new patients, and volunteers, be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. The elderly are the most susceptible to the virus. You can read the “control order” here.