The Worst Place You Could Go Right Now, Says Doctor
COVID-19 cases are declining nationwide, and even previous hotspots like New York City have begun to loosen restrictions on indoor restaurant seating. But if you want to be truly safe, you should opt for outdoor seating or takeout, experts say. That's because the fundamentals of dining indoors—which have caused health officials to warn against it since the beginning of the pandemic—are still the same. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Restaurants, Gyms and Coffee Shops Are Riskiest
"You have a lot of people in a small area where you are not able to wear face masks. Obviously, when you are eating and drinking, you can't wear face masks and where ventilation may be less, that's going to be a higher risk location," said emergency medicine physician Dr. Arvind Venkat late last year, in response to a Stanford University study that found restaurants, gyms and coffee shops were the three most dangerous places for catching COVID.
According to a September study by the CDC, people who tested positive for coronavirus were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the previous two weeks than people who tested negative. And a recent poll of 27 epidemiologists placed indoor restaurants in the top five most dangerous venues for COVID transmission.
"I don't know why restaurants are reopening," Lindsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who's been studying COVID, told CNN last week. "I don't think anything's changed from the time the restaurants were closed. If anything, it's riskier because of the new variants that are more transmissible."
Marr cited a November study that showed it took mere minutes for two people to become infected with COVID at a restaurant from someone who was sitting 15 feet away.
"I think that our current prevalence level (of the virus) is dangerously high," Andrea Buchwald, a Colorado epidemiologist, told the Denver Post last week in response to that state's decision to reopen restaurants at 25% capacity. "We are nowhere near the (low) prevalence that we were at in the summer. I think now is still definitely a time when you should be very cautious of interacting with people outside your home and doing indoor activities."
"Good Airflow" Crucial
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has advised against indoor dining for many months. But he softened his stance last week, telling CNN that indoor dining is possible if it's "done carefully."
"If you do indoor dining, you do it in a spaced way where you don't have people sitting right next to each other," he said. "Good airflow" is important to prevent diners from inhaling respiratory particles from people around them, which are released simply by talking.
According to CDC guidelines, takeout is still the safest way to partake of restaurant fare.
How to Survive This Pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.