Health inspectors aim to help eateries comply with COVID-19 rules

Health inspectors aim to help eateries comply with COVID-19 rules

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department has received scores of complaints about restaurants not following COVID-19 rules. That’s why pandemic protections are now part of the restaurant inspection process. And failure to comply can shut an eatery down.

The people at McCully Buffet, which has a green placard, have a lot on their plates especially with the new safety guidelines meant to keep everyone safe.

There's no more self-serve at the buffet line and indoor dining now resembles a medical clinic.

Manager Misuk Kim shows how food servers wear masks, face shields and gloves.

Masks are mandatory except when patrons are eating or drinking, dining capacity is cut in half and there’s 6 feet of social distancing for the workers and customers.

The state says chefs who are cooking over an open flame don’t need to wear masks to avoid burns and they can wear shields instead.

But managers at McCully Buffet all the kitchen staff wear masks at all times.

Peter Oshiro, the food safety program branch manager at Department of Health, says since new COVID-19 restaurant inspections started earlier this month.

The Health Department has so far gotten 125 complaints statewide.

On Oahu, 10 restaurants were cited ― about half were for employee mask violations. The other half were for staff or customers not social distancing.

“The initial citations we are talking about is just a warning letter saying we have observed certain violations and then if it continues we may be forced to issue a red placard,” said Oshiro.

While there's ample room at McCully Buffet, Oshiro says for some indoor dining and kitchen spaces, conditions can be cramped.

"For the workers it's really hard. You just can't abide by that in certain kitchens so that's why there's the importance of masking up," he said.

Health officials say no restaurants have gotten red placards because they’re focusing on education for now and restaurants can contact the state Department of Health if they need help with the rules.

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