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Is it safe to eat at restaurants again? How can I reduce my risk?

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As local and state governments make decisions to allow restaurants to reopen, individuals and families will have to assess their own risk to decide if it is safe to eat at restaurants in their community. In areas where there are still new cases popping up everyday, you can assume there continues to be a risk for transmission in public settings. If you or a family member falls into a high-risk category, it is probably best to continue to be extra careful. That said, if no one is personally at high risk, then look to the restaurant to pick the safest options and do a little homework before you go to determine what precautions they are taking to keep their diners safe. Generally speaking, the restaurants that pose the highest risks to diners are those that only offer indoor dining and do not reduce their seating capacity to assure that different parties are spaced out by at least 6 feet. The CDC has offered guidelines for restaurants that plan to open including (but not limited to) modifying seating layouts, requiring face coverings for staff, increasing frequency of staff hand washing, posting signs promoting protective measures, maintaining strict disinfection routines, avoiding use of shared items that are reusable and increasing air circulation.

If you are truly sick of home cooked meals, your lowest risk option is getting food delivered or picking it up from a restaurant that does not offer a dine-in option (as that slightly increases the risk, especially if there’s indoor seating). If you and your family members are low risk and you opt to dine at a restaurant, here are some tips to stay as safe as possible:

– Sit outside at least 6 feet away from other diners when possible and don’t linger after you finish your meal

– Maintain your distance and wear a facemask when you are not drinking or eating

– Wash your hands frequently- bring your own hand sanitizer and consider bringing alcohol wipes if feasible

– Ask for disposables if available (condiments, utensils etc)

– Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth with your hands

(Jackie Phillips, MD,  May 25, 2020)