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The #1 Way You're Using Your Mask Wrong When Dining Out

Make sure you don't overlook this important step.
outdoor dining

We all know by now that when dining out in the age of coronavirus, we need to wear a face mask in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommend that restaurant staff wear cloth face coverings, which are meant to protect you, other patrons, and their fellow employees from potentially catching the virus if they have it.

In many cities across the U.S., it's required that a face mask be worn when entering a business of any kind. So, even though you'll be eating and drinking while dining out, this doesn't make you exempt from masking up. In fact, covering your face is particularly important at restaurants and bars, since these are the most common places that many people seem to be flocking to during the pandemic—and the public places in which the virus seems to be spreading the most easily.

Basic face mask etiquette stipulates that both your mouth and nose be covered when entering a public place. At a restaurant or bar, your mask should only be removed once you are seated at your table. You should also put your mask back if you get up from your table for any reason, such as using the restroom.

That said, what many people fail to understand is that wearing a mask is rendered useless if you touch it with unclean hands. Yes, we're talking about cross-contamination here, which is one of the ways in which you can potentially contract COVID-19.

The next time you're out to eat, before you remove your mask to take a bite of food or drink your cocktail, make sure you've just washed your hands thoroughly (especially if you've just visited the restroom, in which case, you should try your best to make it back to your table without touching any door handles or other commonly touched services).

If that's not possible, bring hand sanitizer with you so you can give your hands a quick spray right when you sit down. Or, most restaurants are now required to have hand sanitizer either on the tables or at stations around the restaurant for you to use. (If you don't see any, ask your server.)

Once your hands are washed or sanitized, then you can remove your mask. Try to get into the habit of removing it by the ear strands instead of touching the front of the mask, which could cross-contaminate your hands with any germs that may have potentially collected near your mouth or nose area.

It's also a good idea to store your mask in a paper or plastic bag while you're not wearing it, instead of just tossing it in your purse or coat pocket where there may be more bacteria. Now, you can enjoy your drinks and food with peace of mind.

For more, check out these 23 things fast food restaurants won't be bringing back.

Ami Hanson
Ami Hanson is a food and wine writer based in Seattle. Read more
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