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California gives restaurants dine-in guidelines, allowing a few rural counties to lead way out of coronavirus lockdown

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SACRAMENTO — California is recommending restaurants screen guests for symptoms, have servers wear masks and keep diners at least 6 feet apart once they reopen under guidance released Tuesday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration didn’t set a strict limit on the number of diners allowed but gave suggestions on how to limit crowding such as using outdoor seating and encouraging take-out where possible.

The guidance will take effect only once counties are cleared by the state to move forward, with more rural areas with few virus cases expected to reopen dine-in restaurants more quickly than places like Los Angeles.

Two counties approved to do so Tuesday mid-day were Butte and El Dorado, with two more to be added Tuesday afternoon, Newsom said. Twenty-seven counties are seeking variances from the statewide restrictions, he said.

The other business sectors that Newsom said approved counties would be able to proceed further into the second of his four-stages of the relaxing of restrictions were office uses not workable for telecommuting and open-air retail for pick-up only at strip and outlet malls.

Restaurants have been walloped by the stay-at-home order in California, which has allowed take-out orders but not in-person dining due to concerns about the virus’s spread. Restaurant owners have been forced to layoff staff as these orders are often a fraction of their business and they have been rallying to reopen their doors.

Other recommendations include providing disposable menus or disinfecting them before and after use and putting an end to pre-set tables. The state also suggests suspending the use of salt and pepper shakers, wherever possible, or supplying as needed and disinfecting them.

The California Restaurant Association had previously drafted a list of recommendations that included limiting tables to no more than 10 people. Salad bars, buffets and shared bread baskets would be out.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

North Bay Business Journal contributed to this report.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Track cases in the North Bay, across California, the United States and around the world here.

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