October 5, 2020

CDC Says There Is a Coronavirus Risk in Eating Out in Restaurants

According to the Centers for Disease Control and PRevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for the week of September 11, 2020, there is a coronavirus risk in eating out in restaurants. These are the findings from a case-control investigation of symptomatic outpatients from 11 health care facilities.

The researchers found that close contact with people who are infected with the virus or going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options were both associated with a COVID-19 positive test. Adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results “were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.”

The problem is that mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain when eating and drinking. You obviously can’t eat with a mask on, and when drinking alcohol, inhibitions are lowered. That could mean more laughing and talking loudly, which can expel more virus.

While people with and without the virus had similar community exposures, the biggest difference in the groups was eating in a restaurant. In the 14 days before getting sick, those who did get sick were twice as likely to have eaten in a restaurant. Exposures are linked to air circulation, ventilation, and intensity of air flow that could affect virus transmission.

The question in the survey that assessed coronavirus risk in eating out did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor options. And the question about going to a bar or a coffee shop didn’t distinguish between the venues or service delivery methods.

No significant differences between the positive and negative groups were observed in shopping, gatherings in a home, going to an office setting, going to a salon, going to a gym, or using public transportation.

Fisher KA, Tenforde MW, Feldstein LR, et al. Community and Close Contact Exposures Associated with COVID-19 Among Symptomatic Adults ≥18 Years in 11 Outpatient Health Care Facilities — United States, July 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1258–1264. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6936a5external icon.

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