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Coronavirus Pandemic: Here's everything you need to know before you visit any restaurant in N.C.

Phase 2 begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 22 and remains in place until Friday, June 26, unless changed or canceled.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina is preparing to move into the Safer At Home "Phase 2" plan of easing certain COVID-19 restrictions. It's all about helping to revive the economy while protecting public health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Phase 2 begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 22 and remains in place until Friday, June 26, unless changed or canceled. It allows "restaurants to open for on-premises dining with limits on occupancy, specific requirements for disinfection of common spaces, and 6 feet between each group of customers sitting at each table."

Health officials say any place where people gather poses a risk for COVID-19 transmission. Restaurants are encouraged to create and implement a plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is offering an Interim Guidance for Restaurants. 

The guidance covers the following topics:

  • Social Distancing and Minimizing Exposure
  • Cloth Face Coverings
  • Cleaning and Hygiene
  • Monitoring for Symptoms
  • Protecting Vulnerable Populations
  • Combatting Misinformation
  • Water and Ventilation Systems
  • Additional Resources

You can click here for the full list of new health and safety measures for restaurants reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office of Governor Roy Cooper is offering the following details regarding all restaurants reopening in North Carolina:

What requirement do open restaurants need to follow? All open restaurants must do the following:

  • Limit customers in indoor and outdoor seating areas to the Emergency Maximum Occupancy limit.
  • Limit customers at tables so that no more than 10 people shall be seated together at the same table. More than 10 people may sit together at the same table, however, if they are members of the same household.
  • Ensure that customers sitting at a table are not within 6 feet of any customers sitting at another table (as shown in the diagram below) and ensuring that customers at counters are separated by 6 feet.
  • Post the Emergency Maximum Occupancy in a noticeable place.
  • Post signs reminding customers and workers about social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others) and requesting that people who have been sick with a fever and/or cough not enter.
  • Conduct daily symptom screening of workers, using a standard interview questionnaire of symptoms, before workers enter the workplace.
  • Immediately isolate and remove sick workers.
  • Perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
  • Increase disinfection during peak times or high customer density times and disinfect all shared objects (e.g., dining tables, booths, counters, payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders and reusable menus) between each use.
  • Promote frequent use of hand-washing and hand sanitizer for wait staff and food service staff throughout the shift and upon reporting to work. Hand washing must at least meet the requirements specified in the North Carolina Food Code Manual.
  • Mark 6 feet of spacing in lines at high-traffic areas for customers, such as a cash register or place where customers wait to be seated at their table.

Face coverings for employees and customers are strongly encouraged. People sitting at a table do not need to be members of the same household. The Executive Order does not require servers and wait staff to stay 6 feet away from customers.

All types of restaurants may open in Phase 2, including, but not limited to, cafeterias, food halls, dining halls, food courts and food kiosks. This includes not only free-standing locations but also locations within other businesses or facilities, including airports, shopping centers, educational institutions or private clubs where food and beverages are permitted to be consumed on premises.

How is Emergency Maximum Occupancy calculated for restaurants? Emergency Maximum Occupancy for restaurants is the lowest number produced by applying the following three tests:

  • Fifty percent of stated fire capacity (or, for spaces without a stated fire capacity, no more than 12 customers for every 1,000 square feet of the location's total square footage, including the parts of the location that are not accessible to customers or guests).
  • Limiting the number of people in the space so that everyone can stay 6 feet apart.
  • People sitting at a table must not be within 6 feet of any customers sitting at another table. Moreover, each group of customers sitting at a counter should be separated from other groups by 6 feet.

If the restaurant expands beyond its existing space, for instance, an approved expansion onto a sidewalk or parking lot, then that expansion space would be counted when making the Emergency Maximum Occupancy calculation.

For more information about how restaurants plan on keeping you safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here