The LA County Department of Public Health announced Friday that it will soon release the names of restaurants where five or more employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
"If you're positive for COVID-19, we're very clear that you should not be preparing or serving food," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County's Department of Public Health.
At the same time, Ferrer said officials believe takeout food from restaurants is "very safe" to eat.
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“I think people can continue to safely pick up and take out from your favorite restaurants,” Ferrer said, in response to questions from the I-Team.
The release of restaurant names by the county health department comes after several businesses temporarily closed their doors due to coronavirus-positive employees. One of LA’s top restaurants, Osteria Mozza, closed in late March after owner and chef Nancy Silverton became infected. Only one other Mozza employee tested positive and the restaurant's takeout services remain closed.
Bill Marler, one of the nation’s leading food safety attorneys, lauded the county's decision to disclose these businesses to the public.
“The public has a right to know about ill employees, whether it’s COVID, hepatitis A, E. coli, salmonella,” Marler said. "I don’t see any justifiable reason not to tell the public if there’s an ill employee.”
On social media, many consumers have been calling on the health department to reveal restaurants where outbreaks have occurred.
"This isn't about shaming restaurants...this is about transparency into where infections have been happening," Vince D. commented on LA County's Facebook page.
Some LA area restaurants are now going above and beyond state and county guidelines to ensure food safety and stop any spread of coronavirus. Food preparers at Bacari restaurant on West Third Street are now washing their hands up to twenty times a day, wearing gloves, masks and disinfecting takeout containers.
“It’s very important that our customers and our staff feel safe coming to work and feel safe consuming our products,” said owner Robert Kronfli.
No employee at Bacari has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Kronfli.
County health officials, and food safety experts, say there's little to no chance of getting infected with COVID-19 through takeout food.
"You have to breathe it in, you have to get it into your lungs, that's how you get sick," said Bill Marler.
Food safety experts recommend that when you get takeout food, promptly throw the containers in the trash and thoroughly wash your hands.
The health department has not disclosed when they will be releasing the names of restaurants, with Dr. Ferrer saying today that they are working out the final details to put together a “well informed” list.