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Department of Agriculture Releases COVID-19 Restaurant Enforcement Actions, December 7 – December 13

12/16/2020

Harrisburg, PA - The Department of Agriculture today released data related to COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions from December 7 through December 13, 2020. The information is specific to COVID-19 mitigation requirements for restaurants including social distancing, masking, and occupancy limits.

These numbers include actions taken during routine food safety inspections and inspections prompted by consumer complaints.

From December 7 through December 13, the Bureau of Food Safety performed 590 total inspections, 35 of which were complaint-driven, and 23 were COVID-19 specific complaints. The department received 538 food facility COVID-19 related complaints, 91 of which were referred to local and county health jurisdictions. One formal warning letter was issued. One citation was filed.

On Monday, December 14, the department issued additional warning letters to 150 restaurants. Restaurants that are violating the law are endangering public health through activities that pose significant risk for spreading the virus at a time when hospitals are near or exceeding their capacity to treat infected patients.

A county-by-county breakdown of COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions can be found on the Department of Agriculture’s website. The data will be updated weekly with data from the previous week. 

Among other requirements, all businesses in the restaurant and retail food service industry authorized to conduct in-person activities are mandated to:

  • Require all customers to wear a mask while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling through the restaurant or retail food service business (mask may be removed while seated).
  • Employees are required to wear masks at all times.
  • Provide at least six feet between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers where booths are arranged back to back.
  • Ensure maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor areas are posted and enforced.

Following an initial warning, food safety inspectors will follow up with unannounced inspections to ensure compliance or issue citations as necessary. On subsequent visits, violators may receive a citation and/or fine. In addition to these monetary citations, a retail establishment or restaurant will be required to close until a subsequent inspection reflects that they will operate in compliance. Unannounced inspections will continue to take place. During the closure, the establishment is required to complete rigorous cleaning and then reimpose all mitigation measures to come in compliance with the governor’s order. Failure to comply will result in enhanced penalties upon revisit and referral for criminal prosecution for obstructing the administration of law or other government functions, pursuant to the Pennsylvania crimes code.

Consumers with general food safety complaints or concerns about non-compliance for COVID-19 mitigation can file a report online. COVID-19 mitigation restaurant enforcement actions will be released on a weekly basis.

For more information about the Department of Agriculture’s COVID-19 response, visit agriculture.pa.gov/covid.

MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers - shpowers@pa.gov

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