The United States just reached a bleak milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 related deaths. This comes as more states are moving forward with reopening phases and Americans are beginning to leave the house more often. While many are ready to try to achieve some sense of normalcy, it is clear that the pandemic is not close to being contained. As a result, restaurant safety has become a factor that many people consider while making their plans to go out. All this begs the question of whether it is actually safe to start eating out at restaurants again.
Some states have reopened and their COVID-19 data can provide some insight into how reopening has affected the spread of the virus. Georgia was the first state to reopen in late April. Overall, cases have trended upward since then and peaked on July 24 with over 4,800 new cases in a single day. By September, the number of new cases was still far exceeding those during March and April. This indicates that the quarantine was effective and that reopening can be tied to increased numbers of COVID cases.
Restaurant Safety and Risk Levels
If you do want to support your favorite restaurants and get out of the house, there are ways to lower your risk. Drive-through, take-out, delivery and curbside pickup are the safest ways to dine out with little to no contact. Outdoor dining with a limited capacity and tables at least six feet apart introduces a new level of risk. Restaurants that are serving both indoor and outdoor diners further increase your risk. The highest risk level comes with restaurants that aren’t following restaurant safety protocol like social distancing, are operating at full capacity and serving both indoor and outdoor diners. It is up to you how much risk you are willing to take on.
Another way to assess risk levels is to check on coronavirus data in your community. This information is readily available and you can see how many cases are being diagnosed each day. If there is a clear upward trend, it is safe to assume that you will be at a higher risk for transmission if you eat out at a restaurant.
Assessing Restaurant Safety
Many diners are also concerned about whether restaurants are actually following cleaning and restaurant safety protocols. If you aren’t sure what practices are required in your state or if the restaurant is abiding by these recommendations, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think of it as an interview. The staff should readily be able to answer your questions and provide you with detailed information. It is also a good idea to visit their website and social media pages. Businesses that are concerned with COVID-19 are prominently displaying the restaurant safety steps they are taking to protect staff and customers.
While the quarantine has been helpful in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting people in high risk categories, experts are warning that we won’t be safe until a vaccine is available. In the meantime, business and restaurants across the country are beginning to reopen. Whether you choose to visit these establishments is a personal decision based on how much risk you are willing to assume. Take the time to consider risk levels, ways you can protect yourself in public and whether the restaurant is working to protect diners.
To learn more about how today’s restaurant technology is prioritizing public health, visit our blog post here.
Are restaurant re-openings correlated to increased COVID-19 cases?
In states where restaurants have been able to open to customers, COVID-19 cases have been increasing.
What are the risk levels for restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic?
Visiting a drive-through, getting delivery or opting for take-out or curbside pick up come with the lowest risk level. Outdoor dining, which includes reduced capacity and 6-foot spacing increases risk. Restaurants with both indoor and outdoor dining options raise the risk level again. The highest risk level comes with restaurants that are at full seating capacity, are not spacing tables 6 feet apart, and are offering both indoor and outdoor dining.
How should you decide whether you should dine-in?
Be aware of what is happening in your community. If COVID-19 cases are increasing in your city, there is an increased chance that you will come into contact with the virus. Also, take into consideration whether you are a part of a high-risk category.
How can I make sure a restaurant is practicing safe reopening guidelines?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think of it as an interview and ask the staff about their health and restaurant safety practices before you visit. You can also look at their website and/or social media accounts to see if they are being proactive and careful about diner safety.