The Bureau of Environmental Health of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has issued a guidance for restaurants that are reopening for dine-in services, and have begun conducting inspections for certification of compliance.
According to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ latest amendments to the CNMI Emergency Directives of 2020 last May 25, 2020, the CNMI has transitioned from operating under Community Vulnerability Level RED to Community Vulnerability Level YELLOW, which allows restaurants to serve dine-in customers at 25% of originally permitted occupancy limit in accordance with supplemental regulatory guidance from the CHCC.
The BEH, which regulates food handlers and sanitation permitting, among other responsibilities, sets forth rules for restaurants operating at level YELLOW, and has begun on-site visits to restaurants to issue certifications of compliance for dine-in services.
While bars are still ordered to remain closed in level YELLOW, restaurants and bars during all community vulnerability levels must adhere to the following:
• Enforce hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and use of face coverings by employees when near other employees and customers.
• Ensure adequate supplies to support healthy hand hygiene practices for both employees and customers.
• Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks to ensure that customers remain at least 6 feet apart in queues or ask customers to wait in their cars or away from the establishment while waiting to pick up food.
• Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, how to properly wash hands, provide notice that no one with symptoms will be permitted inside, and how to properly wear a face covering. Sample signage is available for download at https://www.chcc.gov.mp/coronavirusinformation.php
• Post “one-way” flow signs for entrance and “one-way” flow signs for exit to maintain crowd control.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
• Wash, rinse, and sanitize all surfaces which come in contact with food after each use.
• Send employees with symptoms home.
• Discontinue preset tables—condiments, utensils, and tableware removed from table.
• Ensure that all staff complete online ServSafe trainings specific to COVID-19 transmission reduction within one week of offering services.
Restaurants that offer dine-in services during level YELLOW must adhere to the following additional rules:
• Limit occupancy to 25% of their originally permitted occupancy limit.
• Require that patrons make reservations to control volume and maintain records of one point of contact for each party for contact tracing purposes.
• Limit parties dining in together to no more than four people. All parties must remain at least 6 feet apart, and are encouraged to use outdoor seating whenever possible.
• Not offer self-service food or drinks, such as buffet-style dining or beverage refill stations.
Restaurant owners can request an inspection for compliance certification online at the CHCC’s COVID-19 page at chcc.gov.mp or can call the CHCC BEH at 664-4870/2/3 between 7:30am and 4:30pm from Monday through Friday.
Restaurant patrons should look for posted certification of compliance with level YELLOW requirements. Valid certificates of compliance are signed by BEH inspectors and include the restaurant’s sanitation permit number for reference. If you believe a restaurant is operating out of compliance with the rules, you may contact 664-4677 to alert regulators. The BEH may order an establishment to close if it is found to be non-compliant.
Restaurant patrons should plan to make reservations for dine-in service, limit parties to four people, and respect a 6-foot distance from other parties dining in. CHCC recommends that restaurant patrons choose outdoor seating if it’s available, and see if the restaurant will accept food orders ahead of time to reduce your wait time.
A listing of restaurants open for dine-in service will be updated daily at the CHCC’s COVID-19 page of its website chcc.gov.mp. (PR)