There are two main vehicles of establishment exposure from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19); either an infected customer or infected employee. Both instances have different plans of action. These plans should only be implemented in the event of confirmed cases by qualified healthcare professionals and verified by the local health department or authority.

Infected Customer Exposure

  1. If a customer tests positive for COVID-19, follow these steps:
  2. Follow all directions of the local health department.
  3. Identify any areas that the infected individual came into contact with. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ALL customer common areas.
  4. Wear gloves and wash hands after cleaning.
  5. Identify any employees who were exposed (within 6 feet) to the infected individual for a prolonged period of time. Isolate and have them tested. Keep them isolated until the test comes back negative. Quarantine the employee if the test is positive. The local health department will monitor and notify when the employee is cleared for work.
    Establish and maintain a log for all areas that are cleaned and sanitized.

Infected Employee Exposure

In the event that an employee tests positive for COVID-19, follow these steps:

  1. Follow all directions of the local health department. Most likely, this will lead to a temporary closure.
  2. The employee should be excluded from work and confined to home quarantine until cleared by the local health department or authority.
  3. Exclude the employee from work and test any co-workers who had close contact with the infected employee at any time during two weeks prior to the onset of symptoms.
  4. Exclude and quarantine any employees who test positive for COVID-19. The local health department will monitor the quarantine and notify when the employee is cleared for work.
  5. Thoroughly clean and disinfect all areas of the restaurant, from the front to the back. Wear gloves and wash hands after. The local health department may require additional personal protective equipment (PPE).
  6. Keep a log to track employee health on a daily basis. Take employee temperatures before they start work with a thermal infrared thermometer. Send home and document any sick employees.
  7. Establish and maintain a log for all areas that are cleaned and sanitized.


If the establishment is closed, it will not be cleared to open until all areas are verified to be cleaned and sanitized and all employees are cleared of infection. To facilitate a quicker opening, a new, temporary staff with no record of possible exposure may need to be put into place while waiting for test results of exposed employees. All orders by the local authority should be clearly documented on paper and with photos to prove compliance.


Areas of exposure are any surfaces that come into close contact (within 6 feet) with an infected individual. At this time, a possible person-to-person exposure case is a person who has come into close contact with an infected person. In an abundance of caution, it is best to treat any close contact as an exposure case until more is known. These employees should be tested and only cleared to work if their tests are negative.

Food Contamination

There is currently no evidence to suggest food contaminated with coronavirus, if consumed, can make a person infected, unlike norovirus, hepatitis, or other foodborne illnesses.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

COVID-19 is spread through water droplets in the air. They can survive on surfaces for a short period of time, until they evaporate. If a positive COVID-19 case from a customer is connected to a restaurant location, the likelihood that the droplets are still active will be very low and PPE can be limited to gloves.

However, if it is spread to employees, it is possible it could still be active on surfaces. Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces is essential. Current research has shown that the droplets are small enough to pass through face masks. For this reason, it may be prudent to close the establishment to reduce the chance for further exposure from any active surface contamination. The local health department should provide guidance on proper disinfection, contact time, and appropriate PPE.

This plan is based on the best available information and after consultation with local health department personnel who are currently building their own COVID-19 exposure plans. This plan is subject to change when more information becomes available.

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Dennis Keith
With more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, Dennis is passionate about helping restaurant professionals improve their businesses, whether it be for food safety, training, sustainability, sourcing new technologies for restaurants or connecting service providers with restaurant operators. You can learn more about Dennis by connecting with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@fsnfoodsafety and @resprofsp).