No, local food handlers don't have to wear masks

Posted at 6:54 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 19:59:29-04

This COVID-19 pandemic has us all doing things we don’t normally do -- we’re wearing facemasks and gloves to protect ourselves from the virus.

But how about restaurant cooks?

The people who’re preparing our drive-thru orders ?

Are they required to do the same ?

Every week, the Food and Drug Administration sends out an email answering frequently asked questions.

One question is whether restaurant workers who are cooking our food are required to wear masks and other equipment due to COVID-19.

Inside the kitchen at Kiko’s Mexican Resaurant & Cantina, one of Corpus Christi’s most popular restaurants, notice, the lady preparing the food, is wearing gloves, but not a mask.

"Have you ever received any kind of email, statement, order, anything, saying all employees, especially those preparing food, must wear masks throughout their entire work shift?" we asked owner Marcus Barrera.

"No," he said.

Barrera said he’s bought masks, but leaves it up to each employee’s discretion whether to wear one.

However, he says they’ve been required to wear gloves since before the pandemic

City/County Health Director Annette Rodriguez says while masks are not mandatory, they are recommended.

"If they’re in a cooking environment, where they’re within 6 feet of another person, and they’re crossing, then yes, we recommend that they wear a mask because they’re gonna get protected in case that person is asymptomatic and they have the potential to spread the disease," Rodriguez said. "We wanna make sure that they protect themselves as well."

Rodriguez adds that it’s just as important that workers wash their hands repeatedly, to protect themselves.

This place has been open many years, but they’re working under a new normal now, just like everybody else.

"This is something that’s going to have to come from the top all the way down and say, restaurants, this is how you have to do this, that, and the other," said Barrera. "And we will abide by it."

Asst. Health Department Director Dante Gonzalez tells us the department has not received any calls from people claiming they ate food from a particular restaurant, and are now experiencing COVID19-like symptoms.

However, Gonzalez adds that food handlers need to follow proper food preparation guidelines.

Anyone can transmit the coronavirus, or any other type disease, if they do not wash their hands, wear masks, and practice social distancing.

Food handlers should not be around food if they’re sick.

And should always be following pre-determined food handling guidelines.