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Local teen launches COVID Clean restaurant program

Drew Messing (Courtesy Messing)

As the coronavirus pandemic got underway, 16-year-old Drew Messing became the designated take-out food runner for his parents, Claudine and Andrew Messing, and grandparents, Paulette and Joe Gootter.

“My mom is a great cook but a little while into quarantine my family was eager to order takeout food. I would go around Tucson picking up takeout food from restaurants, and I realized this great range of what restaurants were doing regarding the FDA and CDC guidelines. Some restaurants would abide by all of the rules and regulations, while others would not,” he says.

Messing launched COVID Clean (, a free, voluntary program for local restaurants to pledge to adhere to all the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. To date, more than 40 restaurants — some with multiple locations — have signed on.

Recently, Messing told the AJP, Pima County reached out to him to partner with COVID Clean. An announcement from the county is coming soon.

“I thought there was a great need for COVID Clean, because people are nervous to dine in at restaurants [now that Arizona’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order has been lifted] and order takeout food. COVID Clean provides confidence to consumers that restaurants are doing the right thing, helps restaurants increase their revenue, and also provides free meals to recently unemployed restaurant workers” through gift cards donated by many of the participating restaurants, Messing explains.

Restaurants that sign onto the COVID Clean pledge agree to random inspections to ensure their compliance with the following practices:

• Regularly disinfect and clean workspaces and equipment

• Pre-screen employees (e.g., assess symptoms prior to starting work)

• Require employees to wear a mask or face covering

• Instruct employees to use gloves whenever possible

Require employees to practice frequent hand-washing

Participating restaurants run the gamut from sandwich and taco shops to fine dining. There are several food trucks — including a few serving ice cream, gelato, and other treats.

So far, Messing himself has been doing the random inspections.

The project is in accord with intrinsic Jewish values, he says.

“Significant parts of Judaism are giving back to your community, doing the right thing, helping others,” says Messing, who hopes that 10 years from now, “I can look back at my work on COVID Clean and say it had the most positive and significant impact on the Tucson community as it possibly could have.”