Is it really safe to dine out right now?
People diagnosed with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten at restaurants within two weeks of displaying symptoms, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study looked at 314 adults who showed COVID-19 symptoms. Of those, 154 participants tested positive for COVID-19.
Researchers found that people who tested positive and negative went to public places such as the gym and grocery store at about the same rate. However, those who tested positive were about twice as likely to have dined out at restaurants within a 14-day period before experiencing symptoms compared to people who tested negative. The study didn’t specify if people ate inside or outside a restaurant.
The CDC study also found that many cases were tied to air circulation at restaurants.
“Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance,” the CDC notes.
As dining guidelines continue to fluctuate, Dr. Nkem Iroegbu, chief medical officer at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, says the best thing people can do when dining out is to keep practicing social distancing.
“The main challenge when eating at restaurants is the need to frequently remove your mask while eating and drinking. Ideally, you’d cook at home or order food for pick up or restaurant delivery to minimize your risk of exposure,” Dr. Iroegbu says.
If you’re not ready to give up dining out just yet, Dr. Iroegbu suggests the following tips on ways to do so safely:
- Check with the restaurant ahead of time about their social distancing protocols such as seating guests at every other table and limiting the amount of time patrons can be at the restaurant.
- Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after eating your meal.
- Wear a mask when entering a restaurant, interacting with staff and leaving the table. In Illinois, patrons are asked to wear a mask whenever they interact with staff.
- Ask if the restaurant has QR codes in lieu of physical menus. If they don’t, try looking up the menu on the restaurant’s website.
About the Author
Vicki Martinka Petersen, health enews contributor, is a digital copywriter on the content team at Advocate Aurora Health. A former newspaper reporter, she’s worked in health care communications for the last decade. In her spare time, Vicki enjoys tackling her to be read pile, trying new recipes, meditating, and planning fun activities to do in the Chicago area with her husband and son.