Should You Eat at a Restaurant?

We are in a crazy time. Some states are seeing much lower rates of new cases of COVID-19 than they were in the past. However, they also aren’t testing as much as they were, which could be skewing the numbers. States are reopening indoor dining even though experts say it isn’t safe to do so. All in all, it can leave you unsure of what your plans should be!

On top of all this, the U.K. variant is becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, the CDC said it will be the most common strain here in the U.S. by March. That is worrying as it is more infectious and, according to some limited evidence, it has a 30 percent higher risk of death.

I don’t know why restaurants are reopening,” said Prof. Linsey Marr. She teaches civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and has been studying Covid-19 transmission. “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.”

Because the variants are so contagious, they spread quickly, even in countries where people’s movements and activities are far more restricted. According to ER doctor Leana Wen that’s “what happens in other countries when these variants take over. There is (an) explosive surge, even when the countries are basically in shutdown.”

It seems that reopening has far more to do with political pressure and the economy than public safety. Things can be done to make restaurants safer. That includes adding industrial ventilation, installing ultraviolet-C lighting and removing tables. But, that costs money or takes away money from the businesses and defeats the purpose of reopening.

Areas where the variants are quickly spreading are being urged to double mask. That means you pair a surgical mask and a cloth mask. It cuts down even more on the aerosols you breathe in and out. It adds layers, and it creates a tighter seal around your mouth and nose. But, if it’s hard to breathe through it, it’s too much. You should be able to feel your mask, but you shouldn’t be struggling.

Higher risk populations including those with immunocompromised conditions or their household members may want to consider double masking when out in public to further reduce exposure given newer viral variants,” said Dr. Michelle Prickett, Associate Professor of Medicine at Northwestern Univ. Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Prickett went on to point out that it’s a good idea if you’re going to be indoors for a long time. “Double masking may be a consideration when around a large group or when social distancing is not possible,” she said. “These would also include known exposures to COVID-positive persons, or prolonged indoor events, especially with higher occupancy.”

It seems odd that we have doctors telling us to consider wearing two masks and states reopening restaurants for indoor dining, even in a limited capacity. You have to take off your mask to eat. Even if the restaurant is only open at 25 percent capacity, the waitstaff and other diners are in the room. Our team will be sticking to home cooking and supporting our local businesses with takeout and delivery. Right now, it just doesn’t seem to be worth the risk to go to a restaurant. We want things to get back to normal. This seems like an unnecessary risk. It’s not going to feel like you’re really going to a restaurant when it’s mostly empty, you’re following a bunch of precautions and you’re be placing yourself in harm’s way. You can support your local businesses by ordering to-go. We will wait until more of us are vaccinated, and health officials are giving us a thumbs up!   

Banner image: Nima Sarram via Unsplash
February 10, 2021
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