A new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that eating out at restaurants increases the risks of contracting COVID-19. For the study, 314 participants across 10 states were examined after 154 tested positive and 160 tested negative to the disease. According to the research, people who tested positive to coronavirus must have visited a restaurant 14 days before they experienced any symptoms associated with COVID-19.
The study was carried out by CDC officials and researchers from other institutions. The study authors said respondents must have visited a restaurant or bar/coffee shop in the days preceding their coronavirus illness, and the use of face masks may not have helped much since it is not possible to wear masks correctly while eating or drinking. Some of the respondents reported attending church or going to shopping malls days before they took ill with COVID-19.
“Eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC wrote. “Efforts to reduce possible exposures where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, such as when eating and drinking, should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.”
The study however has some limitations as pointed out by the US Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO). Some of these include the fact that the survey did not distinguish whether participants ate at indoor or outdoor restaurants. Also, masks can be worn more effectively during shopping than during dining activities, and that the restrictions in place in the 10 states where the study was carried varied greatly. The association also said the study must be replicated in other states to solidify and cement its integrity.
“Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation. 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 researchers wrote. “Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that bars will remain shut in the state but made it clear that customers who dine in restaurants must agree to temperature checks among other health protocols. He emphasized that it is the responsibility of customers and restaurant owners to ensure that no one is endangered with COVID-19 exposure risks while eating out.