On March 24, 2020, Governor Evers and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued the Safer at Home Order which prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order.
- The order goes into effect at 8:00am on March 25, 2020. See the press release for details.
- Public Health Madison & Dane County has also developed a document listing businesses and other places in Dane County that they have deemed opened or closed per the order.
- If you are unsure if your business is considered essential, please visit the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
To see all orders issued from Governor Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, see the Governor's Executive Orders webpage.
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Below are our most recent issues:
- April 7 - Best Practices for Businesses
- April 3 - Help for Businesses During Coronavirus Outbreak
- March 31 - Translated Resources
If you have questions or concerns regarding compliance with these orders, please contact your Public Health Madison & Dane County Sanitarian.
- Does COVID-19 spread through food?
- How does the virus spread?
- What is the role of money in the spread of COVID-19?
- What types of restrictions apply to restaurants, retail food, mobile carts and lodging facilities?
- As a licensed restaurant operator, can I act as a grocery store to supply basic food staples to the general public during this pandemic?
- What personal hygiene practices are recommended for food workers or volunteers preparing food?
- Should employees in retail food and food production settings wear face coverings to prevent exposure to COVID-19?
- What is the proper way to put on and take off a face covering?
- What precautions are recommended for workers or volunteers?
- How do I maintain social distancing in my food production/processing facility and food retail establishment where employees typically work within close distances?
- What are recommendations for cleaning a food facility?
- What does Public Health recommend regarding employee illness policies?
- What should I do if an employee of my facility is diagnosed with COVID-19?
- What are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when delivering food?
- What are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when serving customers?
- What about specific guidelines for take-out at restaurants?
- Can customers use our outdoor seating?
- What about produce areas in grocery stores?
- How long is this going to last? I'm concerned about my business.
- How can I make a donation to a place that needs it?
- Other Recommendations
- Additional Resources
Food has not been identified as a likely source of COVID-19 infection at this time. However, it is important to follow current food safety standards to help protect workers and customers from COVID-19. In addition, expanding your current food safety practices will help slow the spread of respiratory viruses in the community, and help reduce working days lost due to illness.
Infected people can spread COVID-19 through their respiratory secretions, such as when they cough or sneeze in close contact to others. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Other examples of close contact that may spread illness include kissing or hugging, sharing eating or drinking utensils, talking to someone nearby, and touching someone directly. Close contact does not include activities like walking by a person or briefly sitting across a waiting room or office.
While COVID-19 primarily spreads person-to-person, it may also be capable of through contact with a contaminated surface but this is not the main way it is spread. Again, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food. Visit the CDC's website for more information on COVID-19 transmission.
According to CDC, money is not likely a primary mode of transmission of COVID-19, however, it may be possible to transfer the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. Customers and workers are encouraged to properly wash their hands often throughout the day, including after handling money, and always before they eat or touch their eyes, nose, and mouth.
What types of food service restrictions apply to restaurants, retail food, mobile carts and lodging facilities?
- No dine-in
- No seating (indoors or outdoors)
- No food consumption on premise (indoors or outdoors)
- Only delivery and carryout services are allowed
- For carryout guests, cease self-service operations of salad bars, buffets, push button soda fountains. This includes self-service of cups, lids, straws, single-use condiment packets (i.e., mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper), or any other self-service of single use items where the virus could be spread by customer’s contact.
Grocery Stores and Other Food Retailers
- No dine-in
- No seating (indoors or outdoors)
- No food consumption on premise (indoors or outdoors)
- Only delivery and carryout services are allowed
- Place physical distancing signs throughout the store and at each check-out line to remind customers to maintain 6 feet or more from other people.
- Consider having a “line monitor” on staff for maintaining social distancing in lines and throughout store.
- Consider limiting store capacity
- Consider setting a time of day to be open solely for customers who are seniors and/or who may have compromised immune systems.
- Provide hand sanitizer, wipes, and gloves for cashiers, baggers, and stockers. We recommend hand sanitizer be available for customers throughout the store and sanitizing wipes should be available at entrances for baskets and carts.
- No self-dispensing of any unpackaged food (grocery stores are exempt). Self-dispensing includes the following but are not limited to: bulk bakery, ingredient and candy bins; soup and salad self-service areas; hot dog roller bars; self-serve coffee and other drinks; self-service of bulk condiments. Self-dispensing of prepackaged, single-use condiments (i.e., mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper) and any other single-use items where the virus could be spread by customer’s contact is discouraged. If possible, consider having retail staff dispense these items. No food handling shall be performed by customers, including use of tongs, tissues or cups to dispense food. No unpackaged food allowed to be served at any time.
- Temporarily, the practice of reusing shopping bags by grocery stores is strongly discouraged. Customers should not bring in their own shopping bags at this time. Consider positing signage at the store entrance indicated that reusable bags are not allowed at this time to help protect workers. If grocers want to allow this practice, customers will be required to pack their own groceries. Grocers must sanitize the packing area afterwards.
- Water fountain within retail spaces are to remain available to customers, however, their use should be discouraged as much as possible and the fountains sanitized often.
- Deli meats, cheeses, and salads should be packaged in advance to avoid lines from waiting customers and to promote social distancing practices.
- We recommend wiping the checker and bagger area between customers with an approved disinfectant.
- Any scales, deli counter tops, pin pads, or service and checkout areas potentially touched by customers should be cleaned several times throughout the day.
- When possible have every other checkout lane open to encourage social distancing (e.g., open lanes 1 and 3 while lanes 2 and 4 are closed to checkout).
- Remind employees when not actively helping a customer (bagging groceries or other duties) to stay more than 6 feet from customer.
- See Wisconsin Grocers Association website for additional recommendations and best practices.
Only grocery stores are allowed to self-dispense unpackaged food under the March 25, 2020 Safer at Home Order.
Although allowed by this Order, we highly discourage self-dispensing in grocery stores as an additional precautionary measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. Self-dispensing in grocery stores may include the following but are not limited to: bulk bakery, ingredient and candy bins, and filtered distilled water.
As before, grocery stores may continue to display unpackaged fresh fruits, vegetables and other produce for selection and purchase by consumers.
Mobile carts are expected to follow the above orders and recommendations for restaurant and/or retail sale based on their business model.
- Lodging facilities include hotels, motels, bed & breakfast and short term rentals. No breakfast buffets, meals or appetizers may be served. Prepackaged foods, carryout or delivery is allowed to be dispensed by hotel staff.
- All employees must follow CDC guidelines for illness reporting and managers must enforce. Food handlers must practice heightened hand washing, and wear gloves for all tasks while COVID-19 orders are in effect.
- Hotels must close their pool, hot tub, spa, exercise facilities, and dine-in, and lounge areas to guests; however, it is expected that you continue to maintain proper cleaning and sanitizing of these areas during this time.
- Read more on the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection's lodging tipsheet.
Cafeterias and food service in health care facilities may remain open for staff and authorized visitors only, subject to the following restrictions:
- Self-service operations of salad bars, beverages stations, and buffets are prohibited.
- Customers are prohibited from self-dispensing any unpackaged food or beverage.
- Customers and staff shall comply with Social Distancing Requirements, including in seating areas and lines.
- Hand sanitizer is readily accessible to all employees and customers.
- Heightened cleaning of seating areas is performed after every patron.
As a licensed restaurant operator, can I act as a grocery store to supply basic food staples to the general public during this pandemic?
Yes. The retail food license allows you to sell food items as a grocery store would. Here is some additional information:
- General food safety handling still applies.
- Food must remain under proper temperature control and stored in appropriate, ANSI-approved commercial equipment.
- Ready-to-eat, time-temperature control for safety foods must be date marked.
- It is recommended that you work with your food supplier to purchase prepackaged, consumer-sized, labeled products that are ready to be resold.
If you repackage foods, follow these directions:
- If you repackage foods from bulk, the new package must meet labeling requirements. That includes those required by DATCP’s Bureau of Weights and Measures, which may mean you need to use a commercial, licensed scale as required in ATCP 90.
- If you repackage foods from bulk, you must apply a label that meets retail food establishment labeling requirements. Visit DATCP Food Code Fact Sheets for more retail labeling information.
- If you repackage ready-to-eat, time-temperature control for safety foods from bulk, the proper date must be applied.
Nutritional labeling requirements have been changed during the pandemic and are not required for food originally received by a restaurant for customers that is now being repackaged. Find additional information from FDA Nutrition Labeling during COVID-19. DATCP also offers guidance for repacking eggs at retail food establishments.
- All food workers shall perform proper hand hygiene upon first arriving to work, after the restroom, before and after eating, and frequently throughout the day followed by using an approved alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Wash hands and/or sanitize both immediately prior to delivering service and after any interaction with others. If servicing multiple clients make sure to wash your hands in between clients.
- All workers shall wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure each handwashing station is always stocked with soap, paper towels, and warm, running water.
- Even with proper handwashing, food workers should use an additional barrier such as tongs, gloves, or other utensil to prevent direct hand contact with food. Food employees should use gloves for all tasks.
- All workers shall cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If a tissue is not available, workers can sneeze into their shirt sleeve, but not into their hands. Discard tissues into a lined garbage bin and wash hands immediately with soap and water after each cough or sneeze.
- Remind workers to avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth to help slow the spread of germs. The current food safety rule requires workers wash their hands whenever they touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
- When not performing services, practice social distancing and maintain 6 feet or greater from clients, as much as feasibly possible.
Should employees in retail food and food production settings wear face coverings to prevent exposure to COVID-19?
CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.
This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. Based on this, the CDC has released an updated recommendation regarding the use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. CDC recommends the use of simple cloth face coverings as a voluntary public health measure in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores, food deliveries, and pharmacies).
For workers in food and retail settings who do not typically wear masks as part of their jobs, consider the following if you choose to use a cloth face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Launder reusable face coverings before each daily use.
- Read the additional information from CDC on the use of face coverings, including washing instructions and information on how to make homemade face covers.
- Consider a policy for cloth face coverings at your business. Willy Street Co-op has shared their policy for others to use as a way of working together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The cloth face coverings recommended by CDC are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
See the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for more information under the “Should I wear a cloth face mask?” section.
- Before putting on a face covering, clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover mouth and nose with face covering and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the face covering.
- Avoid touching the face covering while using it; if you do, clean your hands immediately with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Do not slide face covering up or down on face, or wearing around your neck, as the inside of the face covering may become contaminated.
- Replace the face covering with a new one as soon as it is damp.
- To remove the face covering: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of face covering); discard immediately in a closed bin or launder; clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Do not re-use single-use face coverings!
- Because individuals over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions are more at risk, it is recommended that these individuals refrain from food delivery activities. Likewise, individuals who care for vulnerable dependents at home should consider a break at this time. Consider finding other ways to help where you have less interpersonal contact with the public. Individuals need to prioritize safeguarding their dependents and their own health.
- Anyone preparing or delivering food should self-monitor. Self-monitoring requires an assessment of your overall health prior to reporting to work. Monitor your temperature. If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, you should not be preparing or delivering meals.
How do I maintain social distancing in my food production/processing facility and food retail establishment where employees typically work within close distances?
To prevent spread of COVID-19, CDC is recommending individuals employ social distancing or maintaining approximately 6 feet from others, when possible. In food production/processing facilities and retail food establishments, an evaluation should be made to identify and implement operational changes that increase employee separation. However, social distancing to the full 6 feet will not be possible in some food facilities.
The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent on distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation. When it is impractical for employees in these settings to maintain social distancing, effective hygiene practices should be maintained to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
Refer to FDA’s Questions and Answers of Industry for more information.
IMPORTANT: Maintaining social distancing in the absence of effective hygiene practices may not prevent the spread of this virus. Food facilities should be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces.
Sick employees should follow the CDC’s What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- Perform daily environmental cleaning using EPA-approved disinfectants. Read the sanitizer label and follow usage directions. Be sure to measure the concentration of the sanitizer with test strips to make sure the active ingredient is available.
- When disinfecting for COVID-19, EPA recommends following the product label use directions for enveloped viruses, as indicated by the approved emerging viral pathogen claim on the master label. If the directions for use for viruses/virucidal activity list different contact times or dilutions, use the longest contact time or most concentrated solution. Note: These disinfection concentrations may exceed the allowable levels allowed for use on food contact surfaces such as dishes and utensils. Be sure to follow the label directions for FOOD CONTACT SURFACES when using the chemical near or on utensils and food contact surfaces. If you have questions about your particular sanitizer, please carefully read the package label or reach out to your chemical provider for more information.
- Be sure to wash and rinse equipment of visible dirt or debris before sanitizing. Sanitizers work better on clean surfaces. Thoroughly clean and disinfect any equipment. Wipe down commonly touched areas such as door knobs, light switches, door locks, towel dispensers, work stations, countertops, etc. frequently. Use single use towels.
- Ensure daily dishwasher and manual utensil wash sinks have proper level of sanitizer.
- All food contact surfaces such as utensils, cutting boards, and serving ware must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized often throughout the day. Be sure dishes are properly washed and sanitized with chemicals or a high-heat dishwasher after each customer’s use.
- All nonfood contact surfaces, such as equipment, counters, menus, tables, chairs, bathrooms, and doors should be cleaned of spills as needed and sanitized often. Wash, rinse, and sanitize nonfood contact surfaces that worker and customers touch throughout the day.
- To help protect your workers and customers, increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing customer-access areas. Use a separate wiping cloth and sanitizing solution when sanitizing the front of house/customer-access areas.
- Consider removing decorative objects, papers, and other unneeded materials from counters to allow for thorough sanitization of unobstructed surfaces.
- To help customers keep their germs to themselves, provide tissues, no-touch waste bins, and alcohol-based hand antiseptic rubs (with at least 60% ethyl alcohol as the active ingredient) in customer areas.
- Anyone preparing or serving meals to customers should self-monitor prior to reporting to work. Self-monitoring requires an assessment of your overall health. Monitor whether you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. Review your sick leave policies and expand upon paid leave options for your workers, if possible.
- Employees seIf-quarantining for 14 days, must complete the full 14 day quarantine and be symptom-free before returning to work.
- If an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and will not have a test to see if they are still contagious, all of the following criteria must be met before they can leave their home and return to work:
- No fever for at least 72 hours (3 days) without the use of fever-reducing medication
- Other symptoms have improved
- It has been at least 7 days since they started to feel sick
- If you have food employees at higher risk for coronavirus such as people 60 or older, people with underlying health conditions (heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes) or those with weakened immune systems or those who are pregnant: assigning them to non-public-contact duties.
- Per CDC guidelines, employers are encouraged not to require workers to provide a doctor’s note to return to work, because doing so will burden the medical system.
- Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning your facility. Do not reopen until cleaning has been completed. See Questions and Answers About an Employee Testing Positive on our Best Practices for Businesses page for more information.
- When delivering food, practice social distancing as much as feasibly possible.
- Wash hands and/or sanitize both immediately prior to delivering and after any interaction with others. Refrain from touching your face. Wear gloves for all tasks.
- For delivery services, minimize contact with patrons (i.e., have door remain closed upon delivery).
- Verify in advance that there are no accessibility concerns for meal retrieval. If you have to bring meal into someone, make sure to wash and sanitize hands again upon entry and before serving meal. Limit time spent in close contact, and wash/sanitize hands immediately upon leaving.
- If client is sick or in quarantine because of COVID-19, leave meal outside.
- Sanitize meal carriers, including handles, at the beginning and end of delivery. If picking up meal carriers, place carrier at least 6 feet away from the driver during transit.
- All food employees shall perform proper hand hygiene upon first arriving to work, after the restroom, before and after eating, and frequently throughout the day followed by hand using an approved alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Consider not allowing people in facility and offering delivery service or pickup services at designated doors. Have customers order online or over the phone, not in person. Online and phone orders can be picked up and paid for in person at your establishment provided the social distancing requirements are met.
- Orders can also be made onsite, limiting the total number of customers in the restaurant at a time to a maximum of 10, if a social distancing of 6 feet between customers can be maintained during order, payment and pickup. Place signs in establishment where pickup is to occur reminding customers to practice social distancing.
- Provide hand sanitizer to patrons.
Online and phone orders can be picked up and paid for in person at your establishment, provided the social distancing requirements are met. Orders can also be made onsite, limiting the total number of customers in the restaurant at a time to a maximum of 10, if a social distancing of 6 feet between customers can be maintained during order, payment, and pickup. Bathrooms are not for customer use during this time. Customers are to limit time in establishments to payment and receipt of food.
For more information on takeout and delivery, visit our Best Practices During Customer Pickup and Business Delivery of Goods and Services.
Dine-in seating includes both indoor and outdoor seating that are considered part of the premise of your business. No patrons may use any seating, either indoor or outdoor, for consumption of product purchased from the establishment.
Produce areas of grocery stores, convenience stores, and farmer’s markets are not considered self-service or self-dispensing. These sections of stores can remain open. We recommend these products are washed or cooked before eating; posting signage to remind customers to wash all produce before eating is recommended.
To minimize the likelihood of repeated hand contact with produce, retailers should consider decreasing the amount of products displayed for sale and re-stock items more frequently. Be sure to regularly clean and sanitize all containers used to store produce.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has signs that are great for posting throughout your grocery store.
The current orders will remain in effect until 8:00am on Friday, April 24, 2020 or until a superseding order is issued. With good community cooperation in following social distancing and the public health orders, we hope to be successful in flattening the curve and reducing the spread of COVID-19.
The Dane County Small Business Pandemic Support Grant Program, administered by Dane Buy Local, is available for small businesses experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. By creating this grant program, Dane County and Dane Buy Local hope to help local businesses survive the COVID-19 public health crisis, which has caused many to temporarily close their doors. Through this grant program, businesses will be able to apply for funding to help stay afloat and retain employees. We encourage small business owners throughout our community to apply.
There is $250,000 of available funding to support Dane County locally-owned small businesses or nonprofit with employee retention and to mitigate losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant awards will range from $1,000 to $50,000.
For restaurants and businesses with unopened food, particularly things that are not short-dated, email Feed Kitchens with a list of what you have available.
If you don't own or manage a restaurant or business, emergency food providers are currently requesting that the public consider donating money and financial resources rather than donate loose nonperishable food items. They are able to increase their buying power by making bulk orders, so financial resources can go further at this time. Visit Second Harvest's website for more information.
For delivery services, minimize contact with patrons at drop off by asking them to keep their door closed at delivery.
Thoroughly cook whatever you can. Cooking destroys many germs, including COVID-19.
Consider cross‐training personnel so that the workplace is able to operate even if key staff members are absent.
Remember that race, ethnicity, and national origin are not factors in the likelihood of contracting COVID‐19. Cuisines reflective of regions where outbreaks are occurring pose no specific risk to consumers.
- If you have questions related to COVID-19, you can:
- Text COVID19 to 211-211
- Visit 211Wisconsin.org, or
- Call 211
- Call volumes are high, please be patient and try to use the text or online options first