Dining Out Increases the Risk of COVID-19 Infection

In a new study, scientists have found that people who test positive for a coronavirus infection are twice as likely to report dining out in a restaurant 14 days before becoming sick compared to people who test negative for the infection. These findings were reported in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study showed that people who dined out, went to a coffee shop or to a bar were more likely to test positive for an infection. This statistic was true for those who had not come in contact with someone who had coronavirus.

The study included data from 314 adults who had gotten themselves tested for a coronavirus infection in the month of July. Out of all of them 154 had tested positive and 160 had tested negative. The participants included in the study were from 10 different states across America including California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.

Research team from CDC looked at several answers that these subjects gave out in response to their survey. These questions evaluated the mask wearing practices and trends of people going out during the pandemic among others.

Data from the study showed that 42 percent of the people who tested positive have had close contact with at least one person known to have coronavirus. Whereas, only 14% of those who tested negative had close contact with someone who had the virus. The subjects reported that in 51 percent of the cases these close contact was with family members carrying the virus.

Analysis showed that 71% of the adults with coronavirus and 74% of those who tested negative used a face covering in public regularly. The data also showed that people who went out shopping, had small gatherings at home (less than 10 people), went to offices, gym, salons, churches, or used public transportation, had no significant difference between testing positive or negative.

The interesting finding was that people who went out to eat in restaurants within last two weeks were more likely to report an infection and test positive for the virus. But the study did not differentiate between indoor versus outdoor dining and likelihood of an infection.

According to researchers the reason behind this be that people have to take off their masks to eat, thus exposing themselves and others to the virus. Another reason can be 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,” wrote the researchers.

Limiting Exposure

The Association of Food and Drug Officials in response to the study say that it is not conclusive and noted that the 10 states in the report had greatly varying restrictions on restaurants, which can affect the results of the study.

The Association also suggested ways to limit your exposure to the deadly coronavirus as well. Steven Mandernach, executive director of AFDO said, “Sound public health limitations in bars, taverns, and restaurants include limiting alcohol service to accompanying food orders, not allowing hours of operation to extend into the late nights, and limiting occupancy levels and table arrangements to those levels which allow for social distancing. Further, as always, pick-up and delivery remain very low-risk options to obtain food from our favorite bars, taverns, and restaurants”.

According to CDC, if you have to eat out or order food, you should take all the necessary precautions. According to all expert opinions, the virus is not likely to transmit through food, but it is advised to limit contact with restaurant staff and the delivery man or woman.

CDC says that the lowest risk of infection is getting your food through drive-through, delivery, takeout and curbside pickup. If you have to go to the restaurant, try using the outdoor dining and the restaurants where seating capacity is decreased in accordance with social distancing measures. If you have to sit inside, keep a distance of 6 feet with everyone.

Other ways to avoid an infection include washing your hands regularly, sanitizing, practicing good hygiene and to avoid touching face, mouth, and your eyes. It is also important to only take off your mask when you are eating.

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