COVID-19 Information

Access information about COVID-19, DIA guidance, and changes during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Food Businesses

STAFF 1 - For establishments that are open, what precautionary actions do you recommend be taken?

A: Employers should:

  • Closely monitor food employee hand-washing and other hygiene practices.
  • Increase cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting frequencies for all areas of the establishment, especially high-contact surfaces such as door handles, tables, chairs, and restroom fixtures.
  • Ensure disinfecting and sanitizing agents are effective for COVID-19.
  • Monitor employees for signs of illness, and send ill workers home immediately. Ill workers should stay home for seven days after they start having symptoms AND at least three days after fever and other symptoms stop (for any illness).
  • Implement flexible leave policies and educate all food workers to stay home if they are ill.
  • Do not require health care provider notes for food workers to return to work. (3/17/2020)

STAFF 2 - What happens if a food or lodging business employee is diagnosed with COVID-19?

A: If an employee tests positive for COVID-19:

  • The local public health agency will follow-up with the employee and provide guidance for them and their household members. The employee will need to stay home for stay home for seven days after they start having symptoms AND at least three days after fever and other symptoms stop (for any illness).
  • Employers are encouraged to review their leave policy with remaining employees and remind staff to stay home when they are ill.
  • Continue to encourage hand washing and conduct thorough cleaning.
  • Additional food industry guidance can be found here: Food Industry Recommended Protocols When Employee/Customer Tests Positive for COVID-19 (4/2/2020)

STAFF 3 - Is a food or lodging business required to close if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19?

A: No, public health will not require a business to close, however business owners should follow the guidance provided above. (3/17/2020)

STAFF 4 - What should a food or lodging business employee do if they reside with someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or has self-quarantined?

A: The employee should stay at home and isolate themselves from other people and animals in the home for 14 days after their last exposure to the sick person. (3/17/2020)

STAFF 5 - Can food employees who are working take their break or eat lunch at tables within the facility?

A: Yes, employees may use a restaurant’s dining room tables during breaks, however, they should practice social distancing and ensure the area is cleaned and disinfected after use. (4/2/2020)

STAFF 6 - If a food employee’s status as a Certified Food Protection Manager expires during the current state of emergency, is there a grace period for them to renew their certification, given that many of the courses have been canceled?​

A: We encourage facilities and food employees to take advantage of online Certified Food Protection Manager courses to maintain their certifications. However, in light of the fact that many in-person CFPM courses have been cancelled, DIA has instituted a temporary policy to consider those CFPM certifications that expire during the declared emergency to meet the requirements in section 2-102.12 of the Iowa Food Code. (4/7/2020)

STAFF 7 - Is a food or lodging business required to take an employee's temperature before allowing the employee to enter the facility?

A: This is strongly encouraged. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms must be excluded from work. This is a reasonable public health measure that a restaurant can implement. (4/28/20)

STAFF 8 - Are my employees required to wear masks?

A: No, there are no issued mandates for employees and/or customers to wear protective face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE). Each establishment operator should consider enforcing their own mitigation practices and/or strategies to protect their employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19.  Such mitigation strategies may include the wearing of a protective face mask, face shield, or other applicable PPE. Employees with direct customer contact would be of greatest concern. Disposable mask are recommended. However, if cloth masks are worn they should be changed as frequently as necessary, or at least laundered and replaced daily. FDA has issued guidance related to employees in retail food and food production settings wearing face coverings to prevent exposure to COVID-19. (4/28/20)

STAFF 9 - Is there a limit on the number of employees a food business can have in a food prep area?

A: No; however, restaurants are required to implement reasonable measures to ensure social distancing of employees. Each restaurant should evaluate and determine social distancing practices and public health measures, which can be feasibly implemented within their individual establishments. (5/1/20)

FACILITY 1 - Can convenience stores sell unpackaged carry-out food?

(e.g., hot dogs, pizza slices)

A: Yes, however DIA encourages selling food that has been wrapped or placed in individual containers only. (3/17/2020)

FACILITY 2 - Can hotels offer alcoholic beverages via room service?

A: Yes. (5/28/2020)

FACILITY 3 - Can a nonprofit provide food to families in need without a license?

A: Based on current policy, if there is no cost to the consumer, a nonprofit may provide meals made on the premises (e.g., a church kitchen) free of charge to anyone in need without obtaining a food establishment license. If on-premise dining is allowed, the organization must follow the same requirements as restaurants and bars. Curbside and delivery are encouraged. (5/28/2020)

FACILITY 4 - As we see supplies in grocery stores decline, if restaurants have excess food supplies, are they allowed to sell food items like eggs and produce instead of prepared meals?

A: Restaurants may sell these items under a food service establishment license up to $20,000 annually. If the restaurant also holds a retail food establishment license, there is not a sales cap. (3/17/2020)

FACILITY 5 - Can a bar or brewery tap room partner with a mobile food unit or restaurant, or utilize restaurant delivery options to allow on-premises dining along with alcohol sales?

A: Yes, a bar or brewery tap room may partner with a licensed mobile food unit or allow patrons to order food from a restaurant for on-premise dining, and operate with the same guidelines as other restaurants. (5/28/20)

FACILITY 6 - Is there any specific guidance for hotels who serve breakfast or other food items?

A: Restaurants and other food service operations within hotels operate with the same limitations as other restaurants, bars and food businesses. (6/12/20)

FACILITY 7 - What measures should corporate dining locations or college or university dining operations that serve only employees or students implement?  

A: DIA advises corporate or university dining locations that only serve employees or students to ensure employees or students are able to eat meals while practicing social distancing, and to consider dining in scheduled shifts and allowing employees or students to take food back to their work stations or to other campus locations when practical. (6/12/20)

FACILITY 8 - Are in-home bakeries allowed to operate?

A: Yes, but DIA recommends orders still be taken online or by phone, with curbside service. (5/15/2020)

FACILITY 9 - Can fraternal/social organizations that are licensed food establishments continue to operate as restaurants?

(e.g., American Legion/VFW posts, Elks clubs, country clubs, golf course clubhouses)

A: Yes. These clubs and organizations that are licensed food establishments may operate with the same limitations as other restaurants and bars. (5/28/2020)

FACILITY 10 - Can mobile food trucks continue to operate?

A: Yes, but they must adhere to the same limitations as restaurants and bars, including disinfection, serving, and social-distancing protocols. (5/28/2020)

FACILITY 11 - What are the requirements to operate a concession stand at a sporting, social, community, leisure, or recreational gathering or event?

A: Concession stands at a sporting, social, community, leisure, or recreational gathering or event, including but not limited to a parade, festival, convention, or fundraiser, must follow the Guidance for Iowa Concession Stands, Temporary Food Events, and Farmers Markets During COVID-19. (5/28/20)

FACILITY 12 - Can a restaurant or bar within a golf course clubhouse reopen to on-premises dining?

A: Restaurants or bars within golf course clubhouses and other social and fraternal clubs may reopen to the public, provided they operate in accordance with the governor's proclamation. (5/28/20)

FACILITY 13 - Can a civic, business, governmental, community, or veteran’s organization sponsor/hold a temporary food event?

A: Civic, business, governmental, community, or veteran’s organization may sponsor or hold a temporary event that includes food provided the proclamation requirements are met and the sponsoring organization establishes, monitors, and enforces rules consistent with Guidance for Concession Stands, Temporary Food Events, and Farmers Markets During COVID-19. (6/12/20)

FACILITY 14 - What are the requirements for farmers markets?

A: Farmers markets may operate in accordance with the Mass Gatherings section of the June 10, 2020, governor’s proclamation. Operators should enforce rules consistent with the Guidance for Concession Stands, Temporary Food Events, and Farmers Markets During COVID-19. (6/12/20)

FACILITY 15 - Can a golf course clubhouse, with or without a restaurant, allow golfers access to the clubhouse restrooms?

A: Yes, as specified in the governor’s proclamation, a golf course clubhouse may open and operate under the same requirements as restaurants and bars. (5/28/20)

GEN 1 - Is a restaurant or bar required to take the temperature of each customer before allowing entry?

A: No, this is not required. However, it is strongly recommended that establishments screen customers upon reservation and arrival as to whether anyone in the party is positive, has any symptoms, is under quarantine, or has been exposed to COVID-19. (5/28/20)

GEN 2 - Are my restaurant or bar customers required to wear masks?

A: No there are no issued mandates for employees and/or customers to wear protective face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE). Each establishment operator should consider enforcing their own mitigation practices and/or strategies to protect their employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19.  Such mitigation strategies may include the wearing of a protective face mask, face shield, or other applicable PPE. Employees with direct customer contact would be of greatest concern. Disposable mask are recommended. However, if cloth masks are worn they should be changed as frequently as necessary, or at least laundered and replaced daily. FDA has issued guidance related to employees in retail food and food production settings wearing face coverings to prevent exposure to COVID-19. (5/28/20)

GEN 3 - Is a restaurant or bar required to physically remove tables or booths?

A: If a facility is unable to remove tables or booths to ensure a minimum of six feet between guests, tables or booths which are not available for seating guests must be identified by signage. (5/28/20)

GEN 4 - What social distancing strategies should a restaurant, bar, or other food business use?

A: Do not allow guests to congregate in waiting or bar areas. Design a process to ensure guest separation while waiting to be seated. This can include adding floor markings, enforcing social distancing outside the restaurant, having customers wait in cars, etc. Consider also using a facility exit separate from the main entrance, in addition to the main entrance. Predetermine traffic paths to/from restrooms to limit proximity for guests and staff. (5/28/20)

GEN 5 - Can a food business located in a mall or food court allow guests to utilize common seating in malls, food courts, or in other venues where there is normally common seating?

A: Yes, food businesses that utilize only common seating areas (e.g., food courts) may allow customers to utilize these areas. Each food business utilizing common seating areas has a responsibility to ensure six feet of physical distance is maintained between each group or individual dining or drinking alone. (6/12/20)

GEN 6 - Can a restaurant, bar, or other food business allow customer self-service of beverages?

A: Yes, food businesses may allow customer self-service of beverages from dispensing equipment that meets the requirements in Iowa Food Code Section 4-204.13 and the business should also ensure that:

  • Customers do not congregate around the self-service area;
  • Cups should only be used once and new cups are used for “refills”;
  • Signage is placed in the self-service areas informing customers to practice social distancing, not congregate, and to use a new cup each time;
  • Self-service equipment is cleaned and sanitized frequently;
  • Cups are provided by employees;
  • Customers do not use personal cups, mugs, containers, etc.; and
  • Straws and beverage condiments are individually wrapped or packaged;
  • In the event self-service operations are contaminated by bodily fluid discharged through cough, sneeze, or other method, the business shall immediately close the self-service station, discard exposed food and beverages, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the station before resuming use. (6/12/2020)

GEN 7 - Can a restaurant, bar, or other food business allow customer self-service of food?

A: Yes, food businesses may allow customer self-service of food from salad bars, buffets, or other stations that meet Iowa Food Code requirements businesses should also ensure that:

  • Customers do not congregate around the self-service area;
  • Plates shall only be used once and new plates are required for each trip;
  • Signage is placed in the self-service areas informing customers to practice social distancing, not congregate, and to use a new plate for each trip;
  • Self-service equipment is cleaned and sanitized frequently;
  • In the event self-service operations are contaminated by bodily fluid discharged through cough, sneeze, or other method, the business shall immediately close the self-service station, discard exposed food and beverages, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the station before resuming use. (6/12/2020)

GEN 8 - Can a restaurant or bar employee refill customer beverages?

A: Refilling beverages by employees at the table from common containers (e.g., pitchers, carafes, decanters, bottles, kettles, etc.), from a tap, or from a beverage-filling machine is strongly discouraged. We recommend using clean glassware to provide customer refills. (5/28/20)

GEN 9 - How much distance do we need between restaurant or bar tables and booths?

A: The restaurant or bar must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual party of one. Seating at booths may be closer than six feet if booths are separated by a physical barrier of sufficient height to fully separate customers. (5/28/20)

GEN 10 - May I offer preset tables, which may include tableware, utensils, cups/glasses, table tents, menus, salt/pepper shakers, napkin dispensers, condiments (e.g., ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce), or other similar items?

A: DIA strongly discourages offering preset tables. As an alternative, you should consider offering pre-wrapped single-use tableware, single-service condiments (e.g., packets of salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, mayo) or other single-use items (e.g., napkins) upon customer request or delivery of the meal to the dining table/booth. If offered for use, multiple-use tableware or glassware should be placed at the table/booth as guests are seated and must be cleaned and sanitized between each customer. (4/28/20)

GEN 11 - Can a restaurant or bar allow dining customers to remain on premises and order additional beverages, including alcoholic beverages, after the completion of their meal?

A: Yes, provided the restaurant or bar operates in accordance with the governor’s proclamation. (5/28/20)

GEN 12 - Are restaurants or bars allowed to serve customers that are only ordering alcoholic beverages?

A: Yes, provided the restaurant or bar operates in accordance with the governor’s proclamation. (5/28/20)

GEN 13 - Can a restaurant or bar utilize seating at the bar to serve food to customers?

A: When determining if seating at the bar will be allowed, social distancing between customers and employees must be considered. If bar seating is used, DIA advises restaurants and bars to utilize bar seating for parties of one and not for groups. (5/28/20)

GEN 14 - Can a restaurant or bar be open for on-premise dining during hours when food is not offered?

(e.g., If the kitchen hours are from 4-9 p.m., can the restaurant or bar be open for beverage service until 11 p.m.?

A: Yes, as bars are now open to the public, a restaurant or bar may remain open for beverage service only once the kitchen is closed. (5/28/20)

GEN 15 - What type of disinfectants can be used for tables, chairs, and other non-food contact surfaces following customer use?

A: Prior to disinfecting surfaces, these surfaces should first be cleaned (i.e., removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces). Cleaning does not kill germs, but removing them from surfaces lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.  An EPA-registered disinfectant effective for use against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19) is recommended. The EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 can be found online: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. EPA-registered disinfectants must be appropriate for the surface to which it is being applied, and must be applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions on the label. (4/28/20)

GEN 16 - How frequently should I disinfect commonly touched surfaces in my facility used both by customers and employees?

(i.e. door handles, credit card machines, bathrooms, and etc.)

A: The FDA and CDC both recommend cleaning frequently-touched surfaces as often as possible.  The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and Iowa Department of Public Health, to the extent practical, strongly recommend disinfecting commonly-touched surfaces at a minimum of at least hourly; however, if practical, it may be necessary to disinfect such surfaces more frequently. (4/28/20)

GEN 17 - If I need to post signage on the entrance of my food establishment restricting customer access due to a consumer customer exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, are there specific requirements for the signage?

(i.e., the size of sign or text on sign, and information or content printed on the sign)

A: There are no requirements regarding size, format, size of text, or content of signage; however, each establishment operator is strongly encouraged to consider the following when posting signage for customers: 1) Signage should be placed where it can be easily be seen by customers; 2) signage should be large enough for customers to identify and read the posted content 3) text should be appropriately sized and be legibly typed or printed for the customer to read; 4) signage in multiple languages should be considered, if necessary; and 5) signage should include information about particular COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC has identified the following symptoms to watch for on their website: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Please check the CDC’s website for symptoms of coronavirus. (4/28/20)

GEN 18 - Is my restaurant or bar permitted to use reusable menus?

A: It is strongly recommended to discourage the use of reusable menus. If used, each reusable menu should be disinfected between each customer with an EPA-registered disinfectant effective against the COVID-19 virus. It is recommended instead to use single-use paper menus, and to discard them after each use. Alternatives such as stationary menu boards, electronic menus, or mobile device downloadable menus should be considered. (5/28/20)

GEN 19 - Can individual packages of condiments (e.g., ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, hot sauce, barbeque sauce, salt, pepper, etc.) be served to a consumer be reused if they are unopened or unused?

A: It is strongly recommended once served to a customer, unopened or unused individual condiment packages not be served to new customers. (4/28/20)

GEN 20 - Can a restaurant or bar seat more than one dining party at large tables if at least six feet is maintained between parties?

A: Yes, in an instance where a table is long enough to provide at least six feet between guest parties, more than one dining party may be seated at the table. We recommend using tape, signage, or other effective means to indicate six feet of separation between dining parties. (5/28/20)

GEN 21 - Can a restaurant or bar place physical barriers between booths or tables instead of providing at least six feet of physical distance between each group, or party of one?

A: Six feet of physical distance must be maintained between groups at tables or at the bar. However, seating at booths closer than six feet may satisfy this requirement if the booths are separated by a barrier of a sufficient height to fully separate seated customers. All patrons must have a seat at a table or bar, and an establishment must limit patrons from congregating together closer than six feet. (5/28/20)

GEN 22 - Are Plexiglas partitions required for cashier stations and checkout counters?

A: No, Plexiglas partitions or other protective barriers are not required for cashier stations or checkout counters. To the extent practicable, each restaurant should implement measures to ensure social distancing of employees and customers, and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. (5/1/20)

GEN 23 - Is the six-foot physical distance requirement between each group or individual party of one based upon the placement of the table/booth or individuals seated at the table/booth? 

A: The governor’s proclamation requires at least six feet of physical space between each group or individual party of one; therefore, the six-foot distance requirement is the distance between individuals seated at the table or booth. (5/1/20)

GEN 24 - If 10 individuals are seated at a table, do they need to be from the same family or household?

A: Individuals seated as a party are not required to be from the same family or household; however, a restaurant or bar is not permitted to combine parties before or after seating in order to maximize seating availability or capacity. (5/28/20)

GEN 25 - Can a business seat a single party at a bar without six feet of distance between individuals?

A: DIA advises that each individual seated at a bar be separated by at least six feet. DIA further recommends utilizing bar seats for individual customers instead of groups. (5/28/20)

GEN 26 - Are restaurants and bars required to take guest reservations, or can service be offered on a first come-first served basis?

A: Reservations are not required. However, to the extent practicable restaurants and bars may wish to implement guest reservations to ensure public health measures are being implemented to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. Taking reservations may permit the restaurant or bar to maximize available seating and provide an opportunity to screen guests to ensure guests are not positive, have symptoms, are under quarantine, or have been exposed to COVID-19. (5/28/20)

GEN 27 - If a restaurant has a lounge area that is normally used for waiting, can the restaurant convert that space to dining space?

A: Yes, provided that the seating is arranged to provide the mandatory minimum of six feet between groups or individuals dining or drinking alone. (6/12/20)

GEN 28 - Are restaurants or bars required to have separate entrances for customers and employees entering and exiting the establishment? 

A: No, food businesses are not required to provide separate entrances for customers and employees entering and exiting the establishment. To the extent practical, an establishment may wish to establish separate entrances and exits for customers and employees to control person-to-person exposure and to facilitate social distancing practices and public health measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. (5/28/20)

GEN 29 - Is there guidance for restroom use and monitoring?

A: Each facility is encouraged to evaluate the size and capacity of their restrooms and provide guidance to their guests to encourage social distancing. Facilities with separate employee restrooms should encourage all employees to use these restrooms rather than customer restrooms. (5/1/20)

GEN 30 - May a restaurant or bar serve a drink to a customer who is not seated?

A: The governor’s proclamation requires all patrons must have a seat at a table or bar, and an establishment must limit patrons from congregating together closer than six feet. We strongly advise restaurants and bars to only serve alcoholic beverages to customers when they are seated. (5/28/20)

GEN 31 - Pre-wrapped silverware implies a lot of handling. Could tableware be presented to guests via another method such as placing tableware in a basket?

A: Each facility should evaluate methods. Using pre-wrapped silverware allows the establishment to maintain control over potential employee contamination. It is recommended that one employee is assigned the task of wrapping silverware prior to providing it to the customer, rather than multiple employees handling uncovered silverware prior to providing it to customers. (5/1/20)

GEN 32 - Are there requirements relating to how restaurant or bar staff interact with customers while taking orders or seating customers?

A: To the extent reasonable, restaurant and bar staff are to maintain six feet of social distance from customers. We understand this may not be reasonable when taking orders, delivering food to the table, or clearing glassware or dishes. During these interactions, we encourage establishments to use other strategies, including wearing masks to minimize the risk of COVID-19. (5/28/20)

GEN 33 - Can a restaurant, bar, or other food business rent a room or the entire facility for a wedding reception, graduation party, or other social gathering?

A: Yes, a restaurant, bar, or other food business may host social or community gatherings, provided the establishment follows the proclamation requirements for food businesses and mass gatherings. (6/12/20)

GEN 34 - Can a restaurant or bar serve a pitcher, carafe, or other multi-beverage container to a single party to be shared among members of that one single party?

A: Yes, multi-beverage containers may be served to a single party to be shared exclusively among the members of that party. The container must be left on the table during use and cleaned and sanitized between each party’s use. (5/28/20)

GEN 35 - Can customers wait inside a restaurant or bar while food is prepared for carry-out?

A: Yes, however, DIA still advises against this practice. For restaurants and bars choosing to offer carry-out and delivery options, DIA also recommends promoting phone and online ordering. (5/28/2020)