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Health department: Food workers not required to wear masks

MARTINS FERRY — While people still are being permitted to work in various jobs deemed essential by the government, some local residents have wondered if there are more stringent rules regarding the use of masks while dealing with the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

One industry that is still in operation is food service. A Times Leader reader, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concern last week about local deli workers serving deli meats and cheeses without wearing a face mask.

The Belmont County Health Department said food workers are not required to wear masks while serving food. But those who are showing symptoms of sickness should not be serving food anyway, the department noted.

“Food employees that handle food that are experiencing runny nose, coughing, sneezing, etc., are not allowed to handle exposed food such as deli meats,” said Rich Lucas, environmental director for the Belmont County Health Department. “Healthy food employees are required to use suitable utensils or single-use food grade gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods such as deli meats. During this pandemic, most hospitals and care facilities do not have enough masks to go around at this time.

“The masks are to protect the health care workers from inhaling droplets from working around sick patients. Food handlers at this time are not required to wear face masks when handling ready-to-eat foods.”

Lucas added that there are federal guidelines regarding food and sick employees. The existing Food Code is aimed at preventing the contamination of food.

If a worker is sick, they are supposed to tell their supervisor or person in charge so they can take action to prevent the transmission of a disease through food.

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