Dining Out May Be A Serious Factor In COVID-19 Risk

Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci has taken a firm line against the idea of eating in restaurants or hanging out in bars or coffee shops (via Restaurant Business). And as much as some of us might want to disagree with him, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are now signs that eating out could be linked to an increased risk of catching Covid-19. This finding was part of a report released by the CDC on close contact exposure associated with adults that showed symptoms of the infectious disease.

The findings show that about half of participants in the study had either gone shopping or had visited someone else at some point during the 14 days before symptoms presented themselves and that patients were more likely to have gone to eat at a restaurant or have gone to a bar or coffee shop. The study also said people who tested positive and who showed symptoms didn't see clients adhere to social distancing or wearing a face mask. But the study didn't specify whether they were eating or drinking indoors or outdoors.

"Eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. 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 report said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's not surprised by the findings

The news came as no surprise to Dr. Fauci, who said, "That's the simple reason why we're talking about — why I keep stressing about — getting the level of community infection down. Because if you go indoors in a restaurant — whatever capacity, 25, 50 percent, or what have you — indoors absolutely increases the risk," Fauci told MSNBC (via Eat This, Not That). "If we want to get back to the normal existence of being able to enjoy being in a restaurant, the best way to do that is to get the community level of infection at the lowest level possible." 

Fauci has said he is especially concerned about what will happen when temperatures decline and when the weather makes staying outdoors difficult, if not impossible. "I am concerned when I see things starting to move indoors, and that becomes more compelling when you get into the fall into winter season — when you essentially have to be indoors," he said.

CDC says more research is needed to confirm their findings

While Fauci and the CDC are in alignment over the need to avoid eating out, it is important to know that the CDC says more research is still needed to confirm its findings. The study, which conducted between July 1 and July 29, looked at a group of 314 adults across 10 states. The findings also showed that about half (154) of the respondents eventually tested positive for the virus. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they had come in contact with one person who already had COVID, and 71 percent said they always wore a face covering. But they didn't get asked what kind of covering they wore (via Business Insider).

For now, the CDC continues to say that takeout, drive-thru, and delivery continue to be the preferred ways to eat restaurant food. And the highest risk involves eating indoors or outdoors if tables are not spaced at least six feet apart. Business Insider says other high-risk social activities include social gatherings with family and friends, religious events, and going to the movies or to sporting events.