While many Washington-based restaurants still provide “carry-out and quick-serve food operations” under Governor Jay Inslee’s business-closure order, their ability to generate revenue has been severely impacted. Technomic, a restaurant industry research group, reported that consumer spending on food service is down 45 percent from a typical week in February, with further planned reductions expected to come.[1] Survey results also show that people are concerned about ordering take-out. A Dataessential survey has revealed that 34 percent of customers believe that limited-service restaurants are “high-risk.”[2] Moreover, although there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmitting through food or packaging, the general public’s avoidance of physical contact has wreaked havoc on local businesses. According to a New York Times article, Seattle chef Tom Douglas has shuttered his dozen restaurants and laid off nearly all of his 800 employees.[3] He says business is down 90 percent from usual. Local eateries are desperately trying to adapt to save their businesses. Canlis, one of Seattle’s highest-end restaurants, is now running a drive-through serving bagel sandwiches for breakfast, and burgers and veggie melts for lunch. Pandemic-related travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions have also had disastrous effects on small businesses. These unprecedented challenges, including government-mandated business shutdowns, record unemployment, and consumer uncertainty, warrant an equally unprecedented response. This blog post discusses three legal excuses for nonperformance of a contract under which small businesses may be discharged of their contractual obligations: force majeure, impracticability, and frustration of purpose.

Force Majeure

Force majeure clauses are included in contracts to spell out extraordinary circumstances under which a party’s nonperformance under a contract will be excused. Events of force majeure typically include acts of God (including natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods) and acts of people such as riots, strikes, civil unrest, and wars.

The applicability of a force majeure provision is contract-specific, and there is a high bar for invocation of such a clause. In considering the applicability of force majeure, courts look to whether: (1) the event qualifies as force majeure under the contract; (2) the risk of nonperformance was foreseeable and able to be mitigated; and (3) performance is truly impossible.[4]

The court’s inquiry largely focuses on whether the event giving rise to nonperformance was specifically listed as a force majeure in the clause at issue.[5] Most force majeure clauses contain a specific list of triggering events as well as a general catch-all provision. Courts often take a “noticeably strict approach” when interpreting force majeure clauses, “requiring that the event asserted as an act of force majeure actually be listed as a qualifying event in the contract.”[6] In rare circumstances, nonperforming parties “may also rely upon a catch-all provision to argue that the occurrence of an event not explicitly listed in the force majeure clause qualifies to excuse performance.”[7] This narrow exception involves the canon of construction ejusdem generis which “limits the application of general terms which follow specific ones to matters similar in kind or classification to those specified.”[8] Thus, when a contract contains a catch-all that makes clear that it is not limited to the same type of events (e.g., “…or any other events or circumstances not within the reasonable control of the party affected, whether similar or dissimilar to any of the foregoing”), the nonperforming party’s may be excused.[9] Even if the nonperforming party can surmount this harsh requirement, it cannot invoke force majeure if performance is merely impracticable or economically difficult rather than truly impossible.[10]

The facts of a case may fall squarely within the scope of a contract’s force majeure clause; for example, if a provision specifically lists a “pandemic,” “epidemic,” “public health emergency,” or “disease” as a triggering event, COVID-19, a global pandemic, would likely qualify. However, because many contracts contain boilerplate force majeure clauses, a run-of-the-mill contract is unlikely to contain the highly specific catch-all provision required to bypass the court’s narrow interpretation. Moreover, even if a nonperforming party’s contract contains a qualifying clause, the party cannot invoke force majeure if performance is merely impracticable or economically difficult rather than truly impossible. In the present situation, although Washington-based small businesses are struggling, in most cases, their performance is not truly impossible; thus, even if a contract at issue contains a qualifying provision, the force majeure defense may not apply.

Impracticability Defense

If a contract includes a force majeure clause that allocates the risks associated with a global pandemic, that contract term controls. However, if the contract is silent on force majeure, courts may decide to excuse a nonperforming party based on the legal excuse of impracticability or frustration of purpose. These excuses may have different interpretations under applicable law, but in general, they are narrowly interpreted and applied.

There are five discernable elements in the judicial application of the impracticability doctrine: (1) there must be a supervening event (2) whose nonoccurrence was a basic assumption on which the contract was made (3) which renders contract performance impracticable (4) without fault of the party seeking relief (5) and where the party seeking relief did not bear the risk of occurrence of the event based on the contract language.[11]

In order for a supervening event to discharge a duty, the nonoccurrence of that event must have been a “basic assumption” on which both parties made the contract, meaning the supervening event must vitally affect the basis upon which the parties contracted.[12] Ordinary shifts in market conditions or financial ability are not basic assumptions and, thus, cannot be used to justify nonperformance.[13] In Washington, an intervening “prohibition or prevention by law” qualifies as an event, the nonoccurrence of which may be a basic assumption on which a contract was made.[14]

Additionally, in Washington, the phrases “impracticability of performance” and “impossibility of performance” are interchangeable.[15] The courts have held that the defense of impossibility encompasses not only objective impossibility (i.e. the thing cannot be done) but also “impracticability arising from extreme and unreasonable difficulty, expense, injury, or loss.”[16] A “subjective inability to perform” (i.e. a party’s individual inability to perform) under a contract or the fact that performance would likely be “more difficult or more expensive” does not excuse nonperformance.[17] In assessing whether cases meet the impracticability requirement, several courts have relied on the commentary in the Second Restatement, which states that “[a] severe shortage of raw materials or of supplies due to war, embargo, local crop failure, unforeseen shutdown of major sources of supply, or the like, which either causes a marked increase in cost or prevents performance altogether may bring the case within the rule.”[18] The First Restatement suggested that the loss must be “extreme and unreasonable” and, through its illustrations, indicated that tenfold increases or costs multiplied fifty times would constitute such burdens.[19]

Impracticability (or impossibility) is difficult to prove, even in light of the extreme disruptions caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic. It requires the performance to be objectively impossible, or impracticable due to extreme difficulty, expense, injury, or loss – not just financially unfavorable. Thus, if a party can render performance with additional time, energy, money, or resources, impracticability is not a valid excuse. In the current circumstances, impracticability will likely discharge a party where: (1) in a contract requiring that party’s personal performance, the party dies or is incapacitated due to a COVID-19-related illness; (2) in a contract requiring specific raw materials, the party cannot secure these materials without extreme difficulty and unreasonable expense due to severe pandemic-related shortages or shutdowns of commercial facilities in the supplying country; (3) in a contract where performance requires the continued existence of an irreplaceable good or component, that good or component is destroyed due to the pandemic; or (4) performance is rendered impossible by prohibition or prevention of law, such as in a region where there is a state-imposed lockdown.

Frustration of Purpose Defense

The doctrine of frustration of purpose discharges a party from the requirement to complete its contractual obligations when the party’s purpose for entering the contract is subsequently frustrated by a change in circumstances. Frustration of purpose requires many of the same elements as the principles of impracticability/impossibility: (1) there must be a supervening event (2) whose nonoccurrence was a basic assumption on which the contract was made (3) which substantially frustrates a party’s principal purpose (4) without fault of the party seeking relief (5) and where the party seeking relief did not bear the risk of occurrence of the event based on the contract language.[20]

Like the defense of impracticability/impossibility, the defense of frustration of purpose requires that the supervening event vitally affect a “basic assumption” upon which the parties contracted. The doctrine further requires that “the purpose that is frustrated [be] a principal purpose” of the contract such that, “as both parties understand, without it the transaction would make little sense.”[21] Moreover, “the frustration must be substantial”; it must be “severe enough that it cannot fairly be considered a risk the party assumed under the contract.”[22] Examples of “supervening frustration” illustrated by the Restatement’s authors are a cancelled event, destruction of premises, and a change in traffic regulations that reduces a tenant’s business to the point that the tenant is unable to operate except at a substantial loss.[23]

Frustration of purpose may excuse nonperformance if a contract’s purpose is frustrated by pandemic-related events. For example, if a company contracts to book a venue for an event with 150 attendees, but Gov. Inslee issues an order banning public gatherings of more than 10 people, the doctrine of frustration of purpose may apply. Thus, like impracticability, frustration of purpose may be applicable in situations where performance is rendered impossible by prohibition or prevention of law. The doctrine may also apply if a tenant’s business is affected to the point that the tenant is unable to operate except at a substantial loss.

It is important to note that the doctrines of impracticability and frustration of purpose only discharge the party’s duty to perform for so long as the impracticability or frustration exists.

Conclusion

In conclusion, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, small businesses should take proactive steps to ensure continuity of operations sufficient to meet existing contractual obligations. However, if the pandemic results in a business’s inability to satisfy its contractual obligations, it should assess the viability of the legal defenses of force majeure, impracticability, and frustration of purpose. Furthermore, while a struggling business may not be eligible to be fully discharged from its contractual obligations, it may be able to renegotiate its existing obligations using one or more these doctrines.

*       *       *

[1] Joseph Pawlak, Technomic’s Take: COVID-19, The Foodservice View (Mar. 23, 2020), https://www.technomic.com/technomics-take/coronavirus-foodservice-view.

[2] Danny Klein, What Customers Think About Restaurants and Coronavirus (March 2020), https://www.qsrmagazine.com/consumer-trends/what-customers-think-about-restaurants-and-coronavirus.

[3] Ben Casselman et al., Coronavirus Cost to Businesses and Workers: ‘It Has All Gone to Hell’ (Mar. 15, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/15/business/economy/coronavirus-economy-impact.html.

[4] P.J.M. Declercq, Modern Analysis of the Legal Effect of Force Majeure Clauses in Situations of Commercial Impracticability, 15 J.L. & Com. 213, 230 (1995).

[5] Allison R. Ebanks, Force Majeure: How Lessees Can Save Their Leases While the War on Fracking Rages on, 48 St. Mary’s L. J. 857, 881-82 (2017).

[6] Id. at 878.

[7] Id. at 882.

[8] Id.

[9] Id. at 881-82.

[10] Id. at 874.

[11] Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 261 (Am. Law. Inst. 1981).

[12] Id. at cmt. b.

[13] Id.

[14] 25 Wash. Prac., Contract Law and Practice §10:19 (3d. ed.).

[15] 25 Wash. Prac., Contract Law and Practice §10:16 (3d. ed.).

[16] 25 Wash. Prac., Contract Law and Practice §10:16; 1-8 Murray on Contracts § 113 (2011).

[17] Id.

[18] Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 261 cmt. d.

[19] Restatement (First) of Contracts §§ 454, 460, ills. 2 and 3 (Am. Law. Inst. 1932).

[20] Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 265 (Am. Law. Inst. 1981).

[21] Id. at cmt. a.

[22] Ebanks, supra, at 876.

[23] Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 265 cmt. a, ills. 1-4.

The coronavirus and COVID-19 have instigated a new normal for us all, affecting almost every aspect of life. We are all aware of the everyday preventive actions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.

  • Avoid close contact with others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often, including before eating or preparing food.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay at home if you’re sick.

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. A sick person coughs or sneezes and moisture droplets containing virus land in the mouth or nose, or are inhaled, by healthy people nearby.

But what are the facts related to coronavirus and the safety of our food? Let’s look at CDC guidance for answers to four common food-related questions.

Can I get sick from eating food contaminated with COVID-19 virus particles?

CDC statement: “Currently there is no evidence showing transmission of the virus through food.” This does include fresh produce.

Can I get sick from handling a food package contaminated with virus particles?

Coronaviruses have poor survival on surfaces. There is very low risk of disease spread through food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.

The CDC states, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Follow good hygiene and hand washing practices before preparing food or eating to alleviate concerns due to handling food packaging.

What about imported products?

CDC statement: “Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.“

How should fresh produce be washed to reduce the risk of any food borne pathogen?

Remember, there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, but these guidelines are good basic practices for cooks at any time when cleaning produce.

  1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  2. Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
  3. Clean fruits and vegetables before peeling, by gently rubbing while holding them under running water. Do this even with produce you plan to peel. Germs on the peel or skin can get inside fruits and vegetables when you cut them. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash – use plain water only.
  4. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as potatoes, melons and cucumbers.
  5. Dry the produce with a clean paper towel.
  6. Refrigerate fruits and vegetable within 2 hours after you cut, peel or cook them. Or 1 hour if air temperature is 90°F or warmer. Chill them at 40°F or colder in a clean container.

Chicken with Salmonella can make you sick. So can romaine lettuce with E. coli and buffets with lurking norovirus. So why aren’t health officials warning people about eating food contaminated with the new coronavirus?

The answer has to do with the varying paths organisms take to make people sick.

Respiratory viruses like the new coronavirus generally attach to cells in places like the lungs. Germs like norovirus and salmonella can survive the acid in stomachs, then multiply after attaching to cells inside people’s guts.

“Specializing in what tissues to attach to is typically part of the disease’s strategy to cause illness,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and other experts note that the virus is new and still being studied. But they say there’s no evidence yet that COVID-19 sickens people through their digestive systems, though the virus has been detected in the feces of infected people.

How these germs spread also differs.

Respiratory viruses like the flu and the new coronavirus spread mainly through person-to-person contact and air droplets from coughing, sneezing or other flying saliva.

Germs that make people sick through food cause symptoms like diarrhea. In some cases, germs in the feces can capitalize on poor hygiene to jump from people’s hands to whatever else they touch.

That’s why it’s so important for food workers to stay home when they are sick with digestive illnesses: There’s a big risk the restaurant could end up sickening lots of people.

When it comes to food and COVID-19, experts say the biggest risk is contact in grocery stores with other customers and employees, rather than anything you eat. It’s why stores are limiting the number of people they let in, asking customers to practice social distancing and using tape to mark how far apart people should stand.

The new virus can survive on some surfaces, so experts say to keep your hands to yourself as much as possible and to avoid touching your face when shopping. After unpacking your groceries at home, the CDC suggests washing your hands.

It may be harder for viruses to survive on food itself.

“It’s a porous surface. The chances of anything surviving or coming out of it are small,” said Alison Stout, an expert in infectious diseases and public health at Cornell University.

As for the coronavirus being found in the stool of infected people, the CDC notes that it’s not known whether the germs found there can actually sicken someone. Stout said the presence of the virus in the stool is more likely a reflection of systemic infection, rather than its ability to survive the digestive tract.

The Food Safety Information Council today released information about coronaviruses, COVID-19 and food safety.

Cathy Moir, Council Chair, said that consumers have been in contact asking questions about food safety during the pandemic.

“The good news is that Food Standards Australia New Zealand states that there is no international evidence so far that the virus causing COVID-19 is transmitted through eating food. Spread of respiratory droplets from person to person and close personal contact are known to be the most common ways to spread coronavirus. Touching surfaces and objects and then your eyes, nose or mouth may also be a way to transfer the virus.

“At the moment we have to radically change our lifestyles. We have to stay at home as much as possible and increasing numbers of people are being required to home isolate for 14 days or more. Someone will have to go out and buy food periodically and it is possible you are buying up and preparing a little extra food to last 2 weeks.

“There are two important messages on handling food and food safety at this time. One is about preventing COVID-19 spread and shopping for food and the other is about keeping your food safe and preventing food poisoning at home.

“The elderly and those with compromised immunity are at greatest risk from both COVID-19 as well as food poisoning. We know less about COVID-19 risks for children and pregnant women. All these groups are at highest risk for food poisoning.

“Even though the risk of transmission of coronavirus via food surfaces is small, remember everyday food safety measures help prevent food poisoning, caused by viruses as well as other microbes, so will help to keep you safe. This advice not only helps now but also helps reduce the rate of food poisoning in Australia which, in a normal year, results in a considerable burden upon our health system with an estimated 4.1 million cases resulting in 31,920 hospitalizations and 1 million visits to doctors.

“Here are some food safety tips based on your questions about coronavirus and COVID-19:

Handwashing. It’s great to see everyone focused on washing their hands often with soap and running water for 20 seconds (especially as our survey last year found 40% of respondents admitted that they didn’t always wash their hands before touching food). Soap is important as it breaks down the fats and grime on our hands and helps remove viruses and bacteria. Both liquid soap and bar soap are fine. The running water helps further by washing the grime, viruses and bacteria away. Use alcohol gel if handwashing facilities aren’t available.

Hand drying. Do this for 20 seconds too as dry hands are less likely to pick up viruses and bacteria. If you are using a public washroom use either paper towel or an electric hand dryer but you may need to dry a little longer with the electric dryer depending on its power. Use a clean, dry towel at home and you will need to replace wet towels more often with increased handwashing.

Shopping. Follow the instructions provided by your supermarket or food retailer about hand hygiene and social distancing to protect yourself and others. Many supermarkets offer to wipe trolley handles with sanitizer when you enter the store. Don’t put unpackaged fresh fruit and veg directly into your trolley but use the plastic bags provided for your fresh produce. Don’t handle produce items and put them back for others or taste test the grapes as you touch your mouth with your hands. Shopping bags should not be placed on any food preparation benches to prevent contamination. Wash your hands immediately when you return home from shopping and again after putting away groceries.

Home deliveries. These deliveries can offer some protection by reducing contact with others. There is no evidence to date that coronavirus has been transferred by food packaging whether for groceries or take away. As with all you do at present, take precautions and wash your hands after handling the delivery.

“Here are some general tips about safe handling of food at home:

If you are ill. Do not prepare food for other people if you are unwell, with a respiratory illness or gastro, as you risk passing the illness on to them. Cover all coughs and sneezes so you don’t contaminate the kitchen environment and food. Wash hands regularly and clean benches and utensils. If you are the only available cook, e.g. a single parent, cook a frozen meal or something simple that requires minimal handling, or order a home delivered takeaway.

Fresh produce. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be washed under running water before you eat them. Don’t use hand sanitizer or body soap to clean produce as these may contain chemicals you don’t want to consume (and it will taste nasty!) if you grow your own food, don’t water it with ‘grey’ water from washing machines, baths, showers or handwashing.

Storing food and date labels. Food must be used or frozen by its use by date. Check any storage instructions on packaging such as “store under 4°C,” “keep frozen” or “use within three days of opening package.” Food can still be sold or eaten after its best before date but may have lost some nutrition or quality. Put newly purchased items at the back of the pantry shelf or fridge so you use older items first. If you and the kids are stuck at home you might want to tidy out the pantry, freezer and fridge and see who can find the most out of date item!

Cooking. A lot of people have asked about bulk cooking soups, casseroles and stews for freezing. If you do this divide the food into small containers like take away containers so that it cools faster, label with the date, and refrigerate or freeze. Don’t let the food cool to room temperature as bacteria can grow and dangerous toxins can form. Use any refrigerated food within two to three days or freeze it. If you are new to cooking, especially while you are home more, try simple dishes at first and follow the recipe.

Home delivered food. We will be likely to eat more home-delivered food in coming times, whether it is online grocery deliveries or takeaway from your favorite restaurant. Make sure hot food, or food that needs refrigeration or freezing isn’t left more than an hour on the doorstep.

Refreezing food. It is safe to refreeze food that has been defrosted, for example if you defrosted too much meat for dinner, as long as it hasn’t been left on the bench to defrost. Refrozen food may be slightly watery and lose a little quality as freezing breaks down the food structure. You can also defrost food to cook into a dish and then refreeze the dish. You can usually find out how long various foods will last in the freezer from information on the lid or door of your freezer.

Don’t take food poisoning risks. Finally reduce your risk of food poisoning by always washing your hands, chopping boards and utensils after handling raw meat, raw poultry and eggshells. Use a meat thermometer to cook riskier foods such as sausages, hamburgers, rolled roasts, minced meat and leftovers to 75°C in the center. Eggs are nutritious and convenient but raw or slightly cooked egg dishes such as mayonnaise, eggnog, health shakes, steak tartare and mousses are a food poisoning risk and best avoided. Use a fridge thermometer to check your fridge is always running at 5°C or below. If you don’t have a meat or fridge thermometer order one next time you do some online shopping.

“There is plenty of food safety information on our website www.foodsafety.asn.au and we can also answer your enquiries if you email us from the website. Finally, don’t forget to keep supporting food charities like Foodbank and OzHarvest who are feeding those who need it in these difficult times. We are also a health promotion charity that does not receive any Federal Government funding and you can make a tax-deductible donation to us here. We hope you all stay safe,” Ms. Moir concluded.

“Is It Time That We All Start Wearing Masks?” Medscape, 1 Apr. 2020, www.medscape.com/viewarticle/927890Thanks to Chris, our Marler Clark nurse, for this post:  Attached is a Medscape article from 4/1/2020:
IS IT TIME THAT WE ALL START WEARING MASKS

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“Data on efficacy of masks are scant, though evidence does suggest that masks reduce personal risk. The mode of transmission of high-attack-rate, fast-moving epidemics has been determined to be from respiratory droplets. Unless a cough is directly into the face of someone else, droplets and virus spread by that cough fall and then hang out on the surfaces on which they land. In public spaces, the sneeze/cough scenario with another individual in close range is all too possible.”

“Respiratory droplets have diameters in the range of 10 to 100 µm. The research studies looking at transmission have been about influenza, but the COVID-19 mechanism of spread is analogous.”

“One study that examined the capacity for a range of types of cloth masks to filter particulate matter of 10 μm or less (PM10) found that four different types had filtering efficiency that ranged from 63% to 84%. Mind you, we care most about a diameter over PM10. But even for this very small droplet size, these masks filtered better than nothing. As the SARS-CoV-2 virus lives on surfaces for hours to weeks, stopping the particles from landing on grocery aisles or other surfaces touched by multiple persons is even more critical.”

“Wearing masks in public isn’t a panacea. Physical distancing is critical and we know that cities that distanced in the 1918 flu pandemic had later and lower death rates. We know that handwashing gets the particles off your hands and away from the portals in your face. And if we read the research and look at the numbers honestly, we must also recognize that masks keep us safe.”

“Stay home. Wash your hands. Watch the video from the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic. And from now until the time that we can congregate at weddings, graduations, and parties without fear, when you must leave your house, universally, please wear a mask.”

When we think of those who are “on the front lines” in the COVID-19 crisis, most of us probably think of healthcare workers. But what about farmers? In a business where they have been deemed essential but cannot work from home, some workers are anxious about spreading the virus between themselves and their families.

And, of  course, there are the sheer economics of the space farmer’s occupy in our system:

Sadly, this crisis has exposed a major shortcoming farmers share with many small businesses: We are caught between the economics of business and the need to provide adequate benefits for our workers. Individually, we may offer some partial programs, but as an industry we lack a comprehensive plan and are continually challenged by the economics of cheap food. Faced with rising labor costs, many farmers will simply stop growing food….

Farmers and farm workers are on a different front line in this battle. We grow food that feeds a nation who must still eat. Empty grocery shelves and new methods of feeding ourselves — by delivery services, take-out meals and home cooking — are transforming the food chain within which farmers have always played a crucial link.

We are re-imagining the role of food during this crisis. Those of us who work the land and grow food are no longer invisible. We all matter and have a stake in the safety of the health of a public. Food and food workers — from farmers to farm workers to restaurant workers and those who labor in food service businesses and grocery outlets — are part of this battle against this virus. 

Farming businesses are also weary of becoming a scapegoat for disease transmission—although there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is foodborne. You can read the whole article here:https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/david-mas-masumoto/article241731156.html.

Marler Clark, although not in the office, has been fully functional for over a month.  All staff has everything they need to work remotely and to continue to service clients to the degree of excellence that we have expected since 1998.

Be safe, stay home, stay a minimum of six feet apart from others, self-quarantine if you show any COVID-19 symptoms and wash your hands.

Durkan Digest Standard Header

For the past month, our City and country have experienced one of the most consequential events in recent history: the global COVID-19 pandemic. I know that we’re living in an uncertain time, and that we’re worried about our loved ones, friends, colleagues, and our neighbors. Worries about bills, health care costs, rent, food and childcare are creating anxiety and uncertainty for most families.

While many aspects of this virus remain unknown, we do know that without a vaccine, we have to adopt bold actions to save lives and protect our community. Social distancing is the best tool available to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier this evening, Governor Inslee took another critical step to protect the health and safety of our communities and prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The Governor extended the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order until May 4. The order was first announced on March 23, and bans all gatherings, closes all non-essential businesses unless employees can work from home, and requires all Washingtonians to stay home unless they are engaging in an essential activity.

These measures are hard on our community. They have real economic consequences for the most vulnerable and low-income workers. However, we are seeing the consequences of acting too late on social distancing measures in places like New York or Louisiana. I urge all residents and businesses to comply with the Governor’s order and continue social distancing. It’s up to all of us to ensure the health and safety of our community and to protect our most vulnerable neighbors who are at higher risk for the virus.

Photo from the Cleveland Clinic reading: "Let social distancing make your heart grow fonder"

Earlier this week, researchers issued two new reports with preliminary data that showed that our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 appear to be significantly slowing the spread of the virus. The studies underscored the urgent need for continued social distancing – we cannot lose any progress we have made. Our actions are making a difference.

But we also must be prepared for a continued surge in cases in the coming weeks. Our region is lucky to be home to some of the foremost minds in public health, and their research indicates that we have not yet reached the pandemic’s peak. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we will get through this if we continue our actions to social distance and take care of one another.

At the City, we continue to do all we can to help our communities who have been impacted by this global pandemic. From providing assistance for utility payments, to providing over thousands of families grocery vouchers, to issuing grants for our small businesses, we’re prioritizing the needs of our most vulnerable communities.

And I have been so moved by our Seattle community’s commitment to stepping up and taking care of each other. From individuals donating their PPE to our health care workers and first responders on the frontlines of this crisis, to chefs preparing meals for our seniors and people experiencing homelessness, to musicians and artists ensuring our City’s incredible culture continues to be accessible to all, we’ve proven that there’s no place like Seattle. I’m so proud to be a Seattleite, and to be Mayor of our great city.

Please know that I am so grateful to everyone in our city during these unprecedented circumstances. The world is truly looking at us as a model, and we will come through this largely because of our city’s kindness and compassion. Thank you for everything you’re doing.

And please be kind and stay healthy.

Mayor Jenny Durkan's Signature

For more information on the Governor’s order, please visit https://coronavirus.wa.gov/; for a comprehensive list of community and City resources, please visit this website.

A food safety expert released an informative YouTube video (that you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snnpNx6gRIY&utm_source=guelphtoday.com&utm_campaign=guelphtoday.com&utm_medium=referral) to correct inaccurate information that has been circulating about proper protocol when buying groceries and taking them home.

Generally, the same cleanliness rules apply that food safety experts would recommend for common foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria:

“[P]ut down your groceries, wash your hands for 20 seconds, put your groceries away, then use a disinfectant wipe to clean the surfaces that the groceries touched. He then recommends washing your hands once more then you’re finished.

Every time before you eat, you should always wash your hands for 20 seconds, he said. Also ensure all surfaces and tools used to prepare the food are kept clean.

“They’re are still common sense things people should be doing anyway,” said Farber.

Using soap to clean fresh fruits and vegetables is not recommended because it could make you sick in other ways and is not recommended by food safety professionals.

“The soap you use can cause vomiting or diarrhea,” said Farber in the video.

Farber recommends cleaning fruit and vegetables with only clean, cold water and maybe a clean brush for items with a thicker skin, like potatoes and carrots.”

There is a very low risk a person will catch COVID-19 from the food itself; you are much higher risk of catching it during your person-to-person interactions at the grocery store. Therefore, efficient shopping, ie- spending as little time in grocery stores as you can, is a important part of preventing COVID-19 transmission.

“If someone were to sneeze on the packaging before they deliver it to you, where potentially the virus can survive in aerosols for about three hours. The thing they don’t tell you is in that three hours, the virus gets reduced,” said Farber. “You have to touch that exact portion and then touch your face — your mouth, your nose or your eyes — to get infected. It’s really a theoretical risk.”

You can read the full article here:https://www.guelphtoday.com/coronavirus-covid-19-local-news/u-of-g-prof-wants-to-bust-some-myths-about-food-safety-and-covid-19-2217983