Update April 13: This blog has been updated to reflect additional L.A. county guidance for retail food facilities.
On April 9, 2020, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued guidance to assist retail food facilities in complying with its Safer at Home Order. The guidance follows on the heels of a number of other Orders the City and County of Los Angeles have issued to address the COVID-19 pandemic (including the Los Angeles County Worker Protection Order requiring certain workers to wear face coverings, the Los Angeles City Safer at Home Order, an emergency paid sick leave order, and a Grocery, Drug Retail and Food Delivery Worker Protection Order regarding shift changes and new hiring regulations).
What Does the Safer at Home Order Require of Retail Food Facilities?
Per the Safer at Home Order, retail food facilities, and other Essential Businesses must take the following precautions:
- Practice social distancing by requiring patrons, visitors, and employees to be separated by six feet, to the extent feasible;
- Provide access to hand washing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol;
- Post a sign in a conspicuous place at the public entry to the venue instructing members of the public to not enter if they are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever or cough; and
- Adhere to communicable disease control recommendations provided by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (see guidance posted here).
The Safer at Home Order does not supersede any stricter limitation imposed by a local public entity within the Los Angeles County Public Health Jurisdiction. Retail food facilities should confirm whether their local jurisdiction has imposed stricter limitations. Violation of the Safer at Home Order is a misdemeanor, punishable by fine and/or imprisonment.
What Does the Guidance Say for Retail Food Facilities?
The Guidance for Food Facilities provides general guidance for all retail food facilities as well as tailored guidance to dine-in food facilities, grocery stores and convenience stores, and mobile food facilities, including (but not limited to):
- Recommend designating an employee who will ensure social distancing requirements are met within and outside of the retail food facility.
- Ensure that restrooms are fully stocked with soap, single-use towels/hand dryers, and no-touch trash receptacles.
- Restrict use of refillable containers that customers bring in for beverages or food.
- Maintain single-use items such as cups, cutlery, plates, and packaged condiments behind the counter and provide them upon request.
- Engage in enhanced cleaning practices by having an employee(s) clean and disinfect all “high touch” surfaces frequently.
- Schedule employees to the same shift and do not shift employees between shifts to minimize spread in the event that an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Temporarily assign employees at high risk for serious illness due to COVID-19 to other duties that limit their exposure to the public.
- Restaurants offering grocery-type products for retail sale may only include them on their menu for delivery or takeout; such restaurants may not allow customers to enter the restaurant and self-select the grocery items. Certain packaging activities are not allowed.
- Grocery and convenience stores must ensure there is a way to sanitize shopping cart and basket handles, monitor customer capacity within the store, and prohibit customer self-service of unpackaged foods (e.g., salad bar, bulk bins).
What if a Retail Food Facility Employee Tests Positive / Presumptive for COVID-19?
If a Retail Food Facility employee tests positive for COVID-19 or is presumed positive based on symptoms associated with COVID-19, the retail food facility is required to do the following:
- Ensure the affected employee is excluded from the food facility and adheres to the Health Officer Order (HOO) for the Control of COVID-19 (link provided in the guidance).
- Identify all potential “close contacts” and require that they adhere to the HOO quarantine orders.
- Clean and sanitize the facility according to CDC guidance (link provided in the guidance).
Additional guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for employers on managing symptoms and concerns in the workplace can be found here.
What Does the Grocery, Drug Retail and Food Delivery Worker Protection Order Require?
The Grocery, Drug Retail and Food Delivery Worker Protection Order puts in place new requirements for grocery and drug retail employers, as well as food delivery platform businesses.
If a grocery or drug retail store employee requests a change in work schedule, or if a food delivery platform business employee asks to decline orders, for any of the following reasons, the request must be approved:
- To provide daycare for the employee's own child.
- To care for a sick member of the employee's immediate family or member of his or her household.
- If the employee feels ill, exhibits a symptom of COVID-19 as identified by the Center for Disease Control, or suspects having been exposed to COVID-19.
Additionally, the Order requires grocery and drug retail stores to offer work to a current employee before hiring a new employee or using a contract, temporary service or staffing agency to perform work, if:
- The current employee is qualified to do the work as reasonably determined by the employer; and
- The additional work hours would not result in the payment of a premium rate under California Labor Code Section 510.
What Other Guidance Should Retail Food Facilities Be Aware Of?
The City of Los Angeles Safer at Home Order and the County of Los Angeles’ Safer at Home Order were extended through May 15, 2020.
The City and the County both require non-medical essential businesses that are open to the public to complete a social distancing protocol form for each of their facilities. This document will contain a checklist of social distancing, hygiene and public health requirements for each business. The protocol form must be posted at or near the entrance to each business, and must be distributed to each employee, no later than 11:59 PM on April 15, 2020.
On April 10, 2020, Mayor Garcetti issued a revised City of Los Angeles Worker Protection Order. This revised order contains the following additions: (1) An owner or operator of a business or organization described as “essential” in Paragraph 5(vii) of the City of Los Angeles Safer At Home Emergency Order may refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear face coverings; and (2) The requirement to prepare and post a Social Distancing Protocol at all facilities within the City.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has recently issued several new and revised guidance and FAQ documents, including:
- Guidance for Social Distancing
- FAQs for Managers
- Guidance for Food Facilities
- Guidance for Restaurants Offering Grocery Items
- Guidance for Food Deliveries
- Guidance for Farmer's Markets and Community Events
- Guidance for Construction Sites
Additionally, the federal Food and Drug Administration issued information and best practices for retail food stores, restaurants, and pick-up and delivery services during the pandemic to protect both workers and customers. Specifically:
- The FDA issued a factsheet on Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up and Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This information addresses key considerations for how foods offered at retail stores can be prepared safely and delivered to the public, as well as key best practices for employee health and personal hygiene, cleaning, and sanitizing.
- There is also a summary infographic that offers at-a-glance information on how to: Be Healthy, Be Clean; Clean & Disinfect; Social Distance; and Pick-Up & Delivery.
The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.
DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at www.dwt.com/COVID-19.