How to Dine Safely at Your Favorite Place

As restaurants reopen, experts say there are issues for consumers to consider before deciding to dine out again.
They urge consumers to check that the restaurant is well ventilated and is following strict safety protocols.
They also recommend diners wear masks while not eating and beware of certain high-risk items such as menus, silverware, and restrooms.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restaurant dining experience as we once knew it is now gone.

In the age of COVID-19, it has been replaced with 6-foot spacing between tables, pumps of hand sanitizer, disposable menus, and masks for customers and employees.

“I’m going overboard with this,” said Erik Pettersen, executive chef at Evo Italian in Tequesta, Florida, of his restaurant’s new safety measures. “It’s making people feel comfortable because they’ve been, we’ve all been home, watching the news, and listening to these terrible statistics coming in every day.”

The business owner told Healthline he “didn’t pull any pull any punches” when it came to implementing safeguards in advance of his reopening on May 12.

“I searched the internet and ordered sanitizer. I said, ‘I’m not going to be that guy that opens his doors and doesn’t have one on every table, dispensers every 20 feet for people, and in bathrooms.’”

But are precautions like these — and other measures, such as capacity limits, disposable utensils, contactless payment, and staff temperature checks — enough to make dining out completely safe?

As deaths in the United States soar above the 100,000 mark, we asked experts whether it’s safe to venture out to your favorite eatery for a bite to eat with a side of normalcy.

Not a risk-free activity
If you’ve been longing for activities of your previous life, you’ve likely considered the risks involved with each.

Eleanor J. Murray, ScD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts, rattled off factors to think about in regard to transmission risk at a restaurant.

“How much time you spend in proximity to other people, how close of proximity you are to them, whether you’re in sort of an indoor space versus a more ventilated or outdoor space, and how physically crowded you are and how much of that crowding is with people that you don’t typically come in contact with,” she explained. “Restaurants hit potentially all the worst side of those things.”

The safety measures you’ll see in restaurants will not eliminate risk.

“They are likely to decrease the risk,” Murray told Healthline. “Whether they’re good enough to make it not risky at all, I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think there’s any way to make dining out a completely risk-free experience.”

Murray said it would be reasonable to eat at a restaurant outdoor patio where tables are spread out 6 or more feet apart so everyone has plenty of space.

“I think that that’s something that could be reasonable to do in a lot of places already,” she said. “Some places probably have too many cases for that to be feasible yet, but I think a lot of places are kind of heading there.”

If you’re in an area where the novel coronavirus is raging, the decision to dine in may not be wise.

Murray suggested looking at the “trajectory” of cases over the past couple of weeks.

“The case counts today will tell you how many people have been tested, but it’s not necessarily going to be everyone who is infectious right now because people can be infectious maybe up to 2 weeks before they even develop symptoms,” she told Healthline. “You want to think about (if) cases have been trending down in your area? Are they getting to a point where they’re low and it’s reasonable to be in a little bit more crowded setting than you were in March and April?”

If you think the risk is worth taking, select a restaurant that is making an effort to keep customers safe by following federal and local health guidelinesTrusted Source.

“If you’re somewhere where they’ve put the tables exactly 6 feet apart so that if somebody leans back in their chair they’re now closer than 6 feet to you, that’s probably not the best place to be choosing,” Murray said. “You want to look for places that are really trying to go with the spirit of the recommendations and not just the minimum that they need to do.”

Dr. Stephen Berger, an infectious disease expert and co-founder of the Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network (GIDEON), also stressed the importance of 6-foot spacing.

He said a “large, open, and ventilated” space is preferred — outdoors, if possible.

“Before dining in a restaurant, the big question to ask is, simply, ‘Do they adhere to social distancing?’” Berger told Healthline. “Before sitting down and asking for a menu, check to confirm that the restaurant staff is wearing masks, and that these masks cover their noses and mouths.”

source: / health-news/is-it-safe-to-dine-in-a-restaurant-during-covid19#Not-a-risk-free-activity