Adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were about twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the two weeks prior to becoming ill, according to a newly published study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, which was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, involved 314 participants who tested for coronavirus between July 1-29 at 11 health care facilities in 10 states.
For the study, participants were asked about how often they wore face coverings in public and were queried about the places they visited in the past couple of weeks. Of those who tested positive for COVID-19, 70.6% reported always wearing face coverings when in public, compared to 74.2% of those who tested negative.
The CDC concluded that dining out at restaurants could be a major risk factor for the coronavirus and risks should be mitigated as much as possible to protect communities.
Interestingly, those who tested positive and negative went to gyms, salons, office settings, stores and private gatherings with less than 10 people at about the same rate. But those who tested positive for COVID-19 were approximately twice as likely to have dined out at a restaurant than those with negative results.
“Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use,” the report says.
The study’s authors point out past reports of coronavirus in restaurants linked to air circulation. The direction, ventilation and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures are followed and masks are worn, the report says.
The study also notes that people with positive diagnoses were also more likely to have visited bars and coffee shops in the 14 days before. However, that specific analysis is valid only when it’s restricted to those who had no known contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
As restaurants have been reopening across the country, dining out looks different amid COVID-19. Some changes include cleaning and sanitation fees added to tabs, scannable QR codes that will pull a menu up on your phone instead of physical menus, restaurants operating at half capacity to observe social distancing and other changes.
Regulations at restaurants vary across the country. For example, New York City will begin allowing indoor dining at 25% capacity beginning Sept. 30, while other states have allowed restaurants to operate with less stringent restrictions since May. Open Table’s blog has been updating its state-by-state guide to coronavirus-related restrictions.
The CDC’s current guidance on dining out puts drive-through, delivery, take-out and curbside pickup in the “lowest risk” category. Indoor and outdoor dining where seating capacity is not reduced and tables are not spaced at least 6 feet apart make up the highest-risk dining activities.
To lower the risks, restaurants should offer single-serving condiments, use touchless payments if possible, use disposable dishes and utensils and space tables out at least 6 feet apart, according to the CDC.
Have you felt comfortable dining out at restaurants amid the coronavirus?